Semantic Versioning

by Katie Ball — on  , 


Semantic Versioning 2.0.0

Given a version number MAJOR.MINOR.PATCH, increment the:

  1. MAJOR version when you make incompatible API changes,
  2. MINOR version when you add functionality in a backwards-compatible
    manner, and
  3. PATCH version when you make backwards-compatible bug fixes.

Additional labels for pre-release and build metadata are available as extensions
to the MAJOR.MINOR.PATCH format.


In the world of software management there exists a dreaded place called “dependency hell.” The bigger your system grows and the more packages you
integrate into your software, the more likely you are to find yourself, one
day, in this pit of despair.

Backus–Naur Form Grammar for Valid SemVer Versions

<valid semver> ::= <version core>
                 | <version core> "-" <pre-release>
                 | <version core> "+" <build>
                 | <version core> "-" <pre-release> "+" <build>

<version core> ::= <major> "." <minor> "." <patch>

<major> ::= <numeric identifier>

<minor> ::= <numeric identifier>

<patch> ::= <numeric identifier>

<pre-release> ::= <dot-separated pre-release identifiers>

<dot-separated pre-release identifiers> ::= <pre-release identifier>
                                          | <pre-release identifier> "." <dot-separated pre-release identifiers>

<build> ::= <dot-separated build identifiers>

<dot-separated build identifiers> ::= <build identifier>
                                    | <build identifier> "." <dot-separated build identifiers>

<pre-release identifier> ::= <alphanumeric identifier>
                           | <numeric identifier>

<build identifier> ::= <alphanumeric identifier>
                     | <digits>

<alphanumeric identifier> ::= <non-digit>
                            | <non-digit> <identifier characters>
                            | <identifier characters> <non-digit>
                            | <identifier characters> <non-digit> <identifier characters>

<numeric identifier> ::= "0"
                       | <positive digit>
                       | <positive digit> <digits>

<identifier characters> ::= <identifier character>
                          | <identifier character> <identifier characters>

<identifier character> ::= <digit>
                         | <non-digit>

<non-digit> ::= <letter>
              | "-"

<digits> ::= <digit>
           | <digit> <digits>

<digit> ::= "0"
          | <positive digit>

<positive digit> ::= "1" | "2" | "3" | "4" | "5" | "6" | "7" | "8" | "9"

<letter> ::= "A" | "B" | "C" | "D" | "E" | "F" | "G" | "H" | "I" | "J"
           | "K" | "L" | "M" | "N" | "O" | "P" | "Q" | "R" | "S" | "T"
           | "U" | "V" | "W" | "X" | "Y" | "Z" | "a" | "b" | "c" | "d"
           | "e" | "f" | "g" | "h" | "i" | "j" | "k" | "l" | "m" | "n"
           | "o" | "p" | "q" | "r" | "s" | "t" | "u" | "v" | "w" | "x"
           | "y" | "z"

Why Use Semantic Versioning?

This is not a new or revolutionary idea. In fact, you probably do something
close to this already. The problem is that “close” isn’t good enough. Without
compliance to some sort of formal specification, version numbers are
essentially useless for dependency management. By giving a name and clear
definition to the above ideas, it becomes easy to communicate your intentions
to the users of your software. Once these intentions are clear, flexible (but
not too flexible) dependency specifications can finally be made.

A simple example will demonstrate how Semantic Versioning can make dependency
hell a thing of the past. Consider a library called “Firetruck.” It requires a
Semantically Versioned package named “Ladder.” At the time that Firetruck is
created, Ladder is at version 3.1.0. Since Firetruck uses some functionality
that was first introduced in 3.1.0, you can safely specify the Ladder
dependency as greater than or equal to 3.1.0 but less than 4.0.0. Now, when
Ladder version 3.1.1 and 3.2.0 become available, you can release them to your
package management system and know that they will be compatible with existing
dependent software.

As a responsible developer you will, of course, want to verify that any
package upgrades function as advertised. The real world is a messy place;
there’s nothing we can do about that but be vigilant. What you can do is let
Semantic Versioning provide you with a sane way to release and upgrade
packages without having to roll new versions of dependent packages, saving you
time and hassle.

If all of this sounds desirable, all you need to do to start using Semantic
Versioning is to declare that you are doing so and then follow the rules. Link
to this website from your README so others know the rules and can benefit from


The Semantic Versioning specification is authored by Tom
, inventor of Gravatars and
cofounder of GitHub.

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