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RFC-0058: Introduce a deprecated attribute

RFC-0058: Introduce a deprecated attribute
  • FIDL

Use a new attribute Deprecated to indicate deprecation of types (enums, structs, unions, using declarations), consts, methods, or whole interfaces. Carry this over to target languages in the best possible way.

Date submitted (year-month-day)2018-09-10
Date reviewed (year-month-day)2018-10-11


Use a new attribute [Deprecated] to indicate deprecation of types (enums, structs, unions, using declarations), consts, methods, or whole interfaces. Carry this over to target languages in the best possible way.


We have a number of comments indicating that a type, method, or interface should not be used anymore. Examples here, or here. By standardizing on a way to communicate deprecation, exposing this in the JSON IR, and leveraging this information in the various language backends, we can turn these notes into warnings, in target languages, which will more easily guide developers using APIs.

Survey of Uses Today

Surveyed with "ack --type=fidl -i 'deprecated' -A 2 -B 2"

  • On methods
    • fuchsia.tracelink/RegisterTraceProviderDeprecated
    • fuchsia.modular/GetAuthenticationContext
    • fuchsia.modular/GetActiveLinks
    • fuchsia.modular/Duplicate
    • fuchsia.modular.module/ use StartOngoingActivity instead
    • fuchsia.mediaplayer/SetReaderSource
    • fuchsia.ui.viewsv1/AddChild
    • fuchsia.ui.viewsv1/RemoveChild
    • fuchsia.ui.viewsv1/CreateView
    • fuchsia.testing.runner/Fail
    • fuchsia.netstack/GetNodeName
    • fuchsia.netstack/SetRouteTable
  • On fields
    • fuchsia.modular/CreateStory -- module_url argument
    • fuchsia.modular/CreateStoryWithInfo -- module_url argument
    • fuchsia.modular.intent/ json -> entity_reference
  • On interface
    • fuchsia.simplecamera.SimpleCamera
    • fuchsia.sys.ServiceProvider


Recommend and document the use of the [Deprecated] attribute. Optionally, a note can be added to provide an explanation about the deprecation and preferred alternatives, e.g. [Deprecated = "explanation"].

No change to the FIDL compiler. While we may want to have deprecation warnings appear for uses of deprecated types or messages, especially across library boundaries, we are choosing a minimal implementation to start. This is motivated by both wanting to see how these [Deprecated] attributes are used in practice, and avoiding complexity in the compiler that we are not certain we need in the future.

Change the various language backends, as described in detail in the next section:

  • In Rust, add #[deprecated] or #[deprecated(note = "explanation")] where appropriate.

  • In Dart, add @Deprecated where appropriate. Consider also adding automatic comment if an explanation is provided.

  • In Go, add comment // Deprecated. or // Deprecated: explanation. where appropriate. (See the three recommended forms.)

  • In C++, add [[deprecated]] or [[deprecated("explanation")]] where appropriate.

Lastly, we would want to document this feature. A good place would be to discuss this under "Good Design Patterns" in the API Rubric.

Specifics on Placement of Deprecation In Target Languages

In FIDL In Target Language
Type alias (e.g. using foo = bar;) No impact, currently type aliases are a frontend only concern, and are not represented in the JSON IR.
Const declaration On the constant being defined, so as to warn on uses of the constant.
Message (e.g. struct, union, table) Annotation on the top-level type (class/struct) representing the FIDL message, i.e. the type used by end-developers.
Field (e.g. struct field, table field) On the field of the type representing the specific FIDL field, and/or on all accessor methods for this field (e.g. ClearXxx, SetXxx, etc.)
Method, Event, or Interface Place on client facing objects/function (e.g. proxy) but not on service client facing objects/functions (e.g. not on stub); see note below.


We could introduce [DeprecatedForClients] and [DeprecatedForServices] attributes to control which side is deprecated, but uses show deprecation is mostly to inform consumers.

Deprecation as an Error

Depending on build settings and pragmas, the deprecation annotation in target languages are raised to errors.

In Rust for instance, the #deprecated attribute raises a warning. However, this is often coupled with a crate-level #![deny(warnings)] which elevates all warnings to errors. This in turn forces users of deprecated functions, variables, and methods to specify an #allow(deprecated) at point of use. This specific use-site properly documents the intention to knowingly use deprecated code.

As another example, support for deprecation warnings in Go is not as direct, and one needs to turn to third-party tools, such as

As a result, FIDL library authors should be aware that the introduction of a [Deprecated] attribute is a source-level breaking change, in most cases requiring new annotations on the part of users of the library.

Implementation strategy

Two observations:

  • Each language backend can be implemented independently.
  • The [Deprecated] attribute can be introduced in various .fidl files independently of backend support.

The suggested strategy would be to start using the [Deprecated] attribute in various .fidl files, by converting ad-hoc annotations to this proposed attribute.

In separate changes, tackle Dart, Rust, and C++ since they have some target language support.

For Go, we would want to implement this change along with the use of doc comments. (Especially since a deprecation notice would need to be properly fused with a doc comment, the general style is to have doc comments, a line break, and then the deprecation notice.)

As for documentation, this change should occur soon after the use of this attribute in .fidl files, or after the first implementation in one language backend.

Documentation and examples

Add a 'Deprecation' sub-section under the "Good Design Patterns" section of the API Rubric. In addition, document this attribute along with others.

Backwards compatibility

No impact.


No impact.


No impact.


Testing would be done at each backend code gen level.

Drawbacks, alternatives, and unknowns

The implementation cost of this proposal is measured, and can be done in each language backend one at a time. Furthermore, the existence of this convention will already clarify how to indicate deprecation, and provide guidance on annotate existing FIDL files.

As an alternative, we can choose not to implement anything, and not provide support for any deprecation indication. Not doing anything allows us to avoid committing at this time to one specific way to indicate deprecation, especially before we see more usage of this. (A quick ack search turns up on the order of 20-25 places.)

We could also introduce a language keyword for deprecation, and have that as part of the grammar. This seems overly restrictive, and complicated, especially for a feature that doesn't have semantic meaning beyond documentation.

Prior art and references

Being able to describe deprecation, and point to alternatives, is a common feature in multiple programming languages (some noted above).

In protobufs, deprecation is allowed only on fields: "If set to true, indicates that the field is deprecated and should not be used by new code. In most languages this has no actual effect. In Java, this becomes a @Deprecated annotation. In the future, other language-specific code generators may generate deprecation annotations on the field's accessors, which will in turn cause a warning to be emitted when compiling code that attempts to use the field. If the field is not used by anyone and you want to prevent new users from using it, consider replacing the field declaration with a reserved statement."

Mojo and Thrift do not seem to have any feature like this.

Flatbuffers, only on fields: "do not generate accessors for this field anymore, code should stop using this data."