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Fuchsia API evolution guidelines

This section contains guidelines for Fuchsia contributors making changes to Fuchsia Platform APIs. Before you begin, you should be familiarized with the following concepts:

The lifecycle of a platform API

Fuchsia platform APIs should follow the lifecycle: Added → Deprecated → Removed → Deleted, as illustrated below:

This image shows the lifecycle of an API on the Fuchsia platform starting
  with the version when the API was added, then deprecated, then removed, and
  finally deprecated

The following sections explain how to manage this lifecycle as an API developer.

Adding FIDL APIs

Always annotate new FIDL APIs with an @available attribute. Unstable APIs should be added at the HEAD API level. Note that partners using the SDK cannot target the HEAD API level, by design.

For example:


Stable APIs should be added at the in-development API level. This means that starting at the current in-development API level, this API is available and will not change without the appropriate deprecation flows. For example:

// At the time of writing the in development level was 10.

When a FIDL library has more than one .fidl file, the library should include a separate overview.fidl file and the @available attribute should be written in that file along with a documentation comment describing the library. See the FIDL style guide for more information.

Every API in the partner SDK category is opted into static compatibility testing in CI/CQ. These tests fail when an API changes in backward incompatible ways. If your API is unstable, consider adding it to the internal or experimental SDK categories to prevent partners from depending on it and to opt out of static compatibility tests, allowing the API to change freely. Once the API is stable, add it to the partner category.

Deprecating FIDL APIs

You should always deprecate an API at an earlier level than you remove it. When an end developer targets a deprecated API, they see a warning at build time that the API is deprecated and they should migrate to an alternative. You should include a note to help the end developer find an alternative. For example:

protocol Example {
    // (Description of the method.)
    // # Deprecation
    // (Detailed explanation of why the method is deprecated, the timeline for
    // removing it, and what should be used instead.)
    @available(deprecated=5, removed=6, note="use Replacement")


There must be at least one API level between an API's deprecation and removal. It is perfectly fine, however, to deprecate an API at the same level that it was added. For example:

// These are OK.
@available(deprecated=5, removed=6)
@available(deprecated=5, removed=100)
@available(added=5, deprecated=5)

// These will not compile.
@available(deprecated=5, removed=5)
@available(deprecated=5, removed=3)

Removing FIDL APIs

Note that you should always deprecate an API before removing it, and you should preserve the ABI when removing an API whenever possible.

The recommended way to remove an API is to use its @available attribute. This is the method we generally recommend. For example, if an API was added at level 11, it can be removed at level 12 like this:

@available(added=10, removed=12)

In this example, an end developer targeting levels 10 or 11 would see client bindings for the library, but a developer targeting level 12 or greater would not. If this API's source is removed before the platform drops support for API level 12, the API's static compatibility tests will fail and special approval from //sdk/history/OWNERS will be required to submit the change. When the Fuchsia platform drops support for API level 12 the API's source code can be deleted.

Alternatively, you can delete the API's source code which is not recommended for most use cases. If the API was added at the in development API level or a previous API level which is currently supported, this removes the API from Fuchsia's history which is generally not allowed. Static compatibility tests will fail in this case and you will need special approval from //sdk/history/OWNERS to submit the changes. If the API was added at any level greater than the in development API level - including the special HEAD API level - then this method of removal is fine.

Preserving ABI when removing FIDL APIs

It's possible to remove an API's client bindings from SDKs - preventing future end developers from targeting the API - while preserving the platform's implementation of the API (The ABI). This feature allows existing applications to run on newer versions of the platform. When an API has been removed from SDKs and the platform still supports its ABI, we say the platform has legacy support for that API.

To maintain legacy support for an API, set legacy=true when removing the API. For example:

protocol LegacyExample {
    @available(added=10, deprecated=11, removed=12, legacy=true)

All methods in the Fuchsia platform should retain legacy support when they are removed. Once the Fuchsia platform drops support for all API levels before the method's removal, it is safe to remove legacy=true and the method's implementation.