RFC-0233: FIDL legacy by default

RFC-0233: FIDL legacy by default
  • FIDL

Change the @available attribute to make legacy=true the default for removed elements

Gerrit change
Date submitted (year-month-day)2023-08-23
Date reviewed (year-month-day)2023-10-24

Rejection Rationale

This RFC was rejected in favor of RFC-0232: FIDL bindings for multiple API levels. The goal of both proposals was to address the shortcomings of the legacy feature. This one offered an incremental improvement, while RFC-0232 got rid of the feature entirely, replacing it with something better. With legacy gone, this RFC is no longer relevant.


Change the FIDL @available attribute to make legacy=true the default, so that legacy=false is required to opt out of LEGACY inclusion.


With the original design of FIDL versioning, it was impossible to remove an element while retaining ABI support for it. For example, if a CL marked a method as removed=5, it would also have to delete the implementation of that method. That is because we built the Fuchsia platform at HEAD, and the method's server bindings would no longer exist at HEAD since it is greater than 5.

To solve this, we amended RFC-0083 to introduce the LEGACY version and the legacy argument. The LEGACY version is like HEAD, except it re-adds removed elements if they are marked legacy=true.


People are confused about whether they should write legacy=true when removing a FIDL API. The answer is: almost always, unless you are swapping. Moreover, the consequence of incorrectly using legacy=false (ABI breakage) is much worse than that of legacy=true (a fidlc compile error, or unused APIs in bindings) All this suggests the default should be flipped.


Facilitator: abarth@google.com

Reviewers: hjfreyer@google.com, ianloic@google.com

Consulted: wez@google.com, sethladd@google.com, wilkinsonclay@google.com

Socialization: I discussed this idea with the FIDL team and the Platform Versioning working group before writing the RFC.


Change the @available attribute's legacy argument to be true by default for removed elements. Allow legacy=false to override the default.


  1. Change all FIDL files to explicitly specify legacy=false on all removed elements that do not have legacy=true.

  2. Temporarily make legacy a required argument for removed elements. CQ will fail here if (1) missed anything.

  3. Make legacy optional again, and true by default.

  4. Change all FIDL files to remove occurrences of legacy=true.


This proposal has no impact on performance.


This proposal makes FIDL versioning easier to use correctly. In particular, it removes the pitfall of forgetting to write legacy=true when removing an element.

Backwards compatibility

This proposal helps to achieve ABI backward compatibility, since it makes the syntax for ABI compatibility opt-out rather than opt-in.

Security considerations

This proposal has no impact on security.

Privacy considerations

This proposal has no impact on privacy.


This following files must be updated to test the new behavior:

  • tools/fidl/fidlc/tests/availability_interleaving_tests.cc
  • tools/fidl/fidlc/tests/decomposition_tests.cc
  • tools/fidl/fidlc/tests/versioning_tests.cc
  • tools/fidl/fidlc/tests/versioning_types_tests.cc


The following documentation pages must be updated:

Drawbacks, alternatives, and unknowns

Alternative: Different default for removed and replaced

Under this proposal, swapping elements will require writing legacy=false. For example, to change an enum from strict to flexible at version 10:

@available(removed=10, legacy=false)
type Foo = strict enum { VAL = 1; };

type Foo = flexible enum { VAL = 1; };

If RFC-0231: FIDL versioning replacement syntax is also accepted, we could make the default true for removed and false for replaced.

Alternative: Remove legacy argument

With the new default, why keep the legacy argument at all? There are three use cases for removing an element with legacy=false:

  1. Swapping. The alternative above addresses this.

  2. Removing a member of a flexible data structure, in some cases. Consider removing a table field. If the legacy-supporting component would simply ignore the field, then it doesn't need bindings for it in LEGACY.

  3. Dropping support for an old API level and removing the implementation.

Use case (2) is probably rare, and not essential. There's not much harm in having unused LEGACY bindings for such members.

Use case (3) is real, but instead of legacy=false, we could simply delete code from FIDL files. This would mean we could no longer regenerate documentation for old API levels, but we could store pre-generated documentation instead.

Alternative: Replace LEGACY with target/minimum levels

See https://fxrev.dev/ TODO

Prior art and references

I did not look into prior art on this because it is simply a proposal to change a default value.