Semantic Versioning for Clients

Semantic Versioning is a great way to denote the changes in your software that other software must pay attention to. This is especially true for libraries, as their sole purpose is to be used in other software.

However, how do you deal with software that is not consumed by other software, but by users? (Arguably, still a large part of existing and used software.) There isn’t really a public-facing interface to version, and even if you consider the user interface to be one, your users likely don’t care.

Brett Uglow proposes a nice solution to use semantic versioning for end-user applications: Consider the system administrator to be your interface consumer. Now your environment requirements becomes your public API:

  • Major version increments denote new requirements like other hardware, system configuration (firewall) or breaking changes like dropping support for a file format.
  • Minor increments are backwards-compatible: The new version can be installed over the older and will continue to work.
  • Patch versionprovide bug-fixes, without any new features.

While this is just one possibility to interpret semantic versions for client software, it is at least a useful one: It provides additional information to people that have to work with the software, without confusing end-users.