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  1. JDK
  2. JDK-8192828

JEP 322: Time-Based Release Versioning



    • Mark Reinhold
    • Feature
    • Open
    • SE
    • jdk dash dev at openjdk dot java dot net
    • M
    • S
    • 322



      Revise the version-string scheme of the Java SE Platform and the JDK, and related versioning information, for present and future time-based release models.


      • Recast the version-number scheme introduced by JEP 223 so that it better fits time-based release models that define feature releases, which can contain new features, and update releases, which only fix bugs.

      • Allow for time-based release models other than the current model, with a different cadence or with interim releases smaller than feature releases but larger than update releases.

      • Preserve compatibility with the overall JEP 223 version-string scheme.

      • Make it easy for a developer or end user to figure out how old a release is, so that they can judge whether to upgrade it to a newer release with the latest security fixes and, possibly, additional features.

      • Provide a way for an implementor to indicate that a release is part of a series of releases for which the implementor offers long-term support.

      • Provide a way for an implementor to include and display an additional, implementor-specific version string in order to align a release with related products.


      It is not a goal to revise the existing version-string scheme to accommodate requirements other than those related to time-based release models.

      It is not a goal to revise the version-report output of command-line tools other than the java launcher. Doing so is desirable but not critical, and can be done later on.


      The version-string scheme introduced by JEP 223 was a significant improvement over that of the past. That scheme is not, however, well-suited to the future, in which we intend to ship new releases of the Java SE Platform and the JDK on a strict, six-month cadence.

      The main difficulty with the JEP 223 scheme is that a release's version number encodes its significance and compatibility relative to its predecessors. In a time-based release model, however, these qualities are not known in advance. They are subject to change throughout a release's development cycle, until the final feature is integrated. A release's version number is therefore also not known in advance.

      With JEP 223's semantics of version numbers, everyone who works on a release of the JDK, or builds or uses components on top of it, will have to speak initially of the release's ship date and then switch to speaking of the version number, once it is known. Developers who maintain libraries, frameworks, and tools will have to be prepared to change code that inspects version numbers late in each and every JDK release cycle. This is awkward and confusing for all involved.

      The principal change proposed here is, therefore, to recast version numbers to encode not compatibility and significance but, rather, the passage of time, in terms of release cycles. This is a better fit for time-based release models since each release cycle, and thus each release's version number, is always known well in advance.


      Version numbers

      A version number, $VNUM, is a non-empty sequence of elements separated by period characters (U+002E). An element is either zero, or an unsigned integer numeral without leading zeros. The final element of a version number must not be zero. When an element is incremented, all subsequent elements are removed. The format is:


      The sequence may be of arbitrary length but the first four elements are assigned specific meanings, as follows:

      • $FEATURE — The feature-release counter, incremented for every feature release regardless of release content. Features may be added in a feature release; they may also be removed, if advance notice was given at least one feature release ahead of time. Incompatible changes may be made when justified. (Formerly $MAJOR.)

      • $INTERIM — The interim-release counter, incremented for non-feature releases that contain compatible bug fixes and enhancements but no incompatible changes, no feature removals, and no changes to standard APIs. (Formerly $MINOR.)

      • $UPDATE — The update-release counter, incremented for compatible update releases that fix security issues, regressions, and bugs in newer features. (Formerly $SECURITY, but with a non-trivial incrementation rule.)

      • $PATCH — The emergency patch-release counter, incremented only when it's necessary to produce an emergency release to fix a critical issue. (Using an additional element for this purpose minimizes disruption to both developers and users of in-flight update releases.)

      The fifth and later elements of version numbers are reserved for use by downstream consumers of the JDK code base. The fifth element may be used to, e.g., identify implementor-specific patch releases.

      A version number never has trailing zero elements. If an element and all those that follow it logically have the value zero then all of them are omitted.

      The sequence of numerals in a version number is compared to another such sequence in numerical, pointwise fashion; e.g., 10.0.4 is less than 10.1.2. If one sequence is shorter than another then the missing elements of the shorter sequence are considered to be less than the corresponding elements of the longer sequence; e.g., 10.0.2 is less than

      Version numbers in the six-month release model

      Under the six-month release model the elements of version numbers vary as follows:

      • $FEATURE is incremented every six months: The March 2018 release is JDK 10, the September 2018 release is JDK 11, and so forth.

      • $INTERIM is always zero, since the six-month model does not include interim releases. We reserve it here for flexibility, so that a future revision to the release model could include such releases and say that JDK $N.1 and JDK $N.2 are compatible upgrades of JDK $N. As examples, the JDK 1.4.1 and 1.4.2 releases were, in essence, interim releases, and would have been numbered 4.1 and 4.2 under this scheme.

      • $UPDATE is incremented one month after $FEATURE is incremented, and every three months thereafter: The April 2018 release is JDK 10.0.1, the July release is JDK 10.0.2, and so forth.

      We do expect most feature releases to contain at least one or two significant features, and for update releases never to include incompatible changes. In combination with the fact that $INTERIM is always zero, in practice this scheme will often define version numbers that are not much different from what the JEP 223 scheme would have defined.

      Version strings

      The overall format of version strings is the same as that defined in JEP 223. A version string is a version number, $VNUM, possibly followed by pre-release, build, and other optional information, one of:


      where $PRE is a pre-release identifier (e.g., ea), $BUILD is a build number, and $OPT is optional build information.

      If a release is part of a series of releases for which an implementor offers long-term support then the value of $OPT should start with "LTS", e.g., 11.0.2+13-LTS. This will cause "LTS" to be displayed prominently in the output of java --version, etc., more on which below.


      We revise the Runtime.Version API defined by JEP 223 as follows:

      • Add four new int-returning accessor methods for the principal components of version numbers as defined above: feature(), interim(), update(), and patch().

      • Redefine the existing accessor methods major(), minor(), and security() to return the same values as feature(), interim(), and update(), respectively.

      • Deprecate the existing accessor methods, but not for removal, with advice to use the corresponding new methods. This will help make the new semantics of version numbers clear to developers.

      System properties

      To the system properties mentioned in JEP 223 we add two new properties:

      • java.version.date — The general-availability (GA) date of this release, in ISO-8601 YYYY-MM-DD format. For early-access releases this will be the intended GA date, i.e., some date in the future.

      This new property makes it easy to figure out how old a release is, so that as a user you can understand how far behind you are. It also reflects the security level of the release: A given GA release contains the latest security fixes if its version date is no earlier than that of any other GA release.

      • java.vendor.version — An implementor-specific product version string, optionally assigned by the individual or organization that produces a specific implementation. If not assigned at build time then it has no value; otherwise, its value is a non-empty string that matches the regular expression \p{Graph}+.

      This new property makes it possible for implementors to provide additional version information as may be necessary to align with related products. An implementor whose product line uses, e.g., date-based versions of the form $YEAR.$MONTH could set this property accordingly so that their JDK releases are clearly related to their other releases. (This property is named java.vendor.version rather than the more obvious java.implementor.version in order to be consistent with the existing system properties whose names include vendor.)


      The java launcher will display version strings and system properties as follows, for a hypothetical build 13 of JDK 10.0.1:

      $ java --version
      openjdk 10.0.1 2018-04-19
      OpenJDK Runtime Environment (build 10.0.1+13)
      OpenJDK 64-Bit Server VM (build 10.0.1+13, mixed mode)

      Similarly, for a hypothetical build 42 of JDK 11, an LTS release:

      $ java --version
      openjdk 11 2018-09-20 LTS
      OpenJDK Runtime Environment (build 11+42-LTS)
      OpenJDK 64-Bit Server VM (build 11+42-LTS, mixed mode)

      If an implementor assigns a vendor version string of, e.g., 18.9 to a JDK 11 LTS build then it would be displayed:

      $ java --version
      openjdk 11 2018-09-20 LTS
      OpenJDK Runtime Environment 18.9 (build 11+42-LTS)
      OpenJDK 64-Bit Server VM 18.9 (build 11+42-LTS, mixed mode)

      In detail, the output of the java launcher's version-report options will be formatted as follows, where ${LTS} expands to "\u0020LTS" if the first three characters of $OPT are "LTS", and ${JVV} expands to "\u0020${java.vendor.version}" if that system property is defined:

      $ java --version
      openjdk ${java.version} ${java.version.date}${LTS}
      ${java.runtime.name}${JVV} (build ${java.runtime.version})
      ${java.vm.name}${JVV} (build ${java.vm.version}, ${java.vm.info})
      $ java --show-version < ... >
      openjdk ${java.version} ${java.version.date}${LTS}
      ${java.runtime.name}${JVV} (build ${java.runtime.version})
      ${java.vm.name}${JVV} (build ${java.vm.version}, ${java.vm.info})
      [ ... ]
      $ java --full-version
      openjdk ${java.runtime.version}
      $ java -version
      openjdk version \"${java.version}\" ${java.version.date}${LTS}
      ${java.runtime.name}${JVV} (build ${java.runtime.version})
      ${java.vm.name}${JVV} (build ${java.vm.version}, ${java.vm.info})
      $ java -showversion < ... >
      openjdk version \"${java.version}\" ${java.version.date}${LTS}
      ${java.runtime.name}${JVV} (build ${java.runtime.version})
      ${java.vm.name}${JVV} (build ${java.vm.version}, ${java.vm.info})
      [ ... ]
      $ java -fullversion
      openjdk full version \"${java.runtime.version}\"

      @since JavaDoc tag

      The value used with the @since JavaDoc tag continues to be aligned with the system property java.specification.version, hence APIs introduced in JDK 10 will be tagged @since 10.

      Mercurial changeset tags

      The general syntax for the Mercurial tags that identify promoted builds is unchanged: jdk\-$VNUM\+$BUILD.

      Build configuration and output

      Three existing version-related configuration options will be deprecated and hence ignored, and the related Make variables will no longer be defined:

      --with-version-major          VERSION_MAJOR
      --with-version-minor          VERSION_MINOR
      --with-version-security       VERSION_SECURITY

      Five new options, and corresponding variables, will be defined:

      --with-version-feature        VERSION_FEATURE
      --with-version-interim        VERSION_INTERIM
      --with-version-update         VERSION_UPDATE
      --with-version-date           VERSION_DATE
      --with-vendor-version-string  VENDOR_VERSION_STRING

      (There is no need to define --with-version-patch and VERSION_PATCH, since they already exist.)

      The release file written into the root of a JDK image will, in addition to defining the existing JAVA_VERSION variable, also define JAVA_VERSION_DATE with the value of the java.version.date system property, and IMPLEMENTOR_VERSION with the value of the java.vendor.version system property, if defined.


      The proposal for the six-month time-based release model suggested that the version strings of feature releases be of the form $YEAR.$MONTH. Thus next year's March release would be 18.3, the September release would be 18.9, and so on each year.

      After reasonable objections were raised against this scheme we reviewed the various types of information encoded in version numbers and suggested some alternatives, then summarized and responded to the discussion that followed, and finally published a proposal that was well received and hence became the basis for this JEP.


      This newer version-string scheme is largely compatible with that defined by JEP 223, so testing should be straightforward. The principal difference is the potential use of the fourth element for emergency patch releases, which may require some new unit-test cases. Changes to the relevant build-configuration options will require straightforward manual testing.

      Risks and Assumptions

      The changes described here introduce three minor incompatibilities:

      • JEP 223 specifies the security() method of the Runtime.Version API to return the value of the $SECURITY element of the version number. That element is not incremented when the element that precedes it, $MINOR, is incremented. This proposal renames the $SECURITY element to $UPDATE and clears that element whenever the element that precedes it, $INTERIM (formerly $MINOR), is incremented. The redefinition of security() in terms of update() is therefore, in theory, an incompatible change. This API was introduced in JDK 9, however, and no releases of JDK 9 with a non-zero value of $MINOR are envisioned, so in practice this change should have minimal impact.

      • The output of the java launcher's version-report options now includes the version date at the end of the first line, possibly followed by "\u0020LTS". Existing code that parses this output under the assumption that the last token on the line is the version number may require adjustment.

      • The output of the java launcher's --version, --show-version, -version, and -showversion options will include the value of the java.vendor.version system property on the second and third lines, if that value differs from that of the java.version. Existing code that parses this output may require adjustment.


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