Rust Package Versioning: How to Do It Right

Are you a Rust package developer? Are you tired of dealing with versioning issues, dependency conflicts, and upgrades gone wrong? Fear not, for today we're going to explore the best practices for Rust package versioning.

Versioning is one of the most crucial aspects of package development. It affects how your package is consumed, how dependencies are resolved, and how your code evolves over time. That's why getting versioning right is paramount to the success of your package.

Semantic Versioning

When it comes to versioning, Rust packages follow the semantic versioning (semver) convention. Semver is a versioning specification that defines how version numbers should be assigned and incremented over the course of development. In a nutshell, it consists of three digits, separated by dots: MAJOR.MINOR.PATCH.

By following semver, you can convey important information to your consumers about the compatibility of your package with their projects. For example, if a user depends on version 1.0.0 of your package, they know that any update to 1.x.y should be backwards-compatible, while updates to 2.0.0 may introduce breaking changes.

When to Bump the Version

Now that we know what each version digit means, let's talk about when to increment each one.

Major Version

As mentioned, you should increment the MAJOR version when you make incompatible API changes. This means any change that could break existing code that depends on your package. Examples of MAJOR changes include:

In general, you should aim to minimize the number of MAJOR version bumps in your package's lifetime, as these can be disruptive to your consumers. If you're not sure whether a change warrants a MAJOR bump, it's always better to err on the side of caution and ask for feedback from your community.

Minor Version

You should bump the MINOR version when you add new functionality in a backwards-compatible manner. This means any change that extends the existing API without breaking existing functionality. Examples of MINOR changes include:

MINOR version bumps are less disruptive than MAJOR version bumps, as they don't break existing code. However, you should still be cautious when making MINOR changes, as they can affect the behavior of your package in unexpected ways. It's always a good idea to test your changes thoroughly and notify your consumers of any new features or changes in behavior.

Patch Version

You should bump the PATCH version when you make backwards-compatible bug fixes. This means any change that corrects errors or improves the stability or security of your package without changing its behavior. Examples of PATCH changes include:

PATCH version bumps are the least disruptive of all, as they only affect the internals of your package. However, they're still important to track, as they indicate progress in the stability and security of your codebase.

Dealing with Dependencies

Versioning is not only relevant for your own package but also for its dependencies. Let's say your package depends on another package, and that package releases a new version with breaking changes. What should you do?

The answer depends on the severity of the breaking changes and the importance of the dependency to your package. If the changes are minor and don't affect your package's functionality, you can opt for a MINOR or PATCH version bump of your package and update the dependency to its latest version.

However, if the changes are significant and affect your package's functionality, you may need to increment your MAJOR version and update the dependency accordingly. Alternatively, you can choose to fork the dependency and maintain a separate version of it that's compatible with your package.

In any case, it's important to communicate any changes in your package's dependencies to your consumers, so they can make informed decisions about their own projects.

Best Practices

So far, we've covered the basics of Rust package versioning. To wrap up, let's go over some best practices to keep in mind when versioning your package.

Start with version 0.1.0

When you're starting a new Rust package, it's best to begin with version 0.1.0. This communicates to your consumers that the package is still in development and should not be relied upon for production use yet.

Use tags and release notes

When you release a new version of your package, be sure to tag the commit that contains the changes and provide release notes that explain the changes in detail. This helps your consumers keep up with the evolution of your package and make informed decisions about updates.

Use pre-release versions for testing

If you're making significant changes to your package and want to test them before pushing them out as a production release, you can use pre-release versions. These are versions that have a suffix such as "-alpha", "-beta", or "-rc", indicating that they're not yet ready for production use. This allows you to get feedback from your community and detect any breaking changes before they're released to the public.

Document breaking changes

Whenever you make a breaking change in your package, be sure to document it in the release notes and in the code itself. This helps your consumers understand how their code may be affected by the change and how to update accordingly.

Follow Rust conventions

Lastly, be sure to follow Rust conventions and guidelines for package development. This includes using Cargo as your package manager, following the rustfmt code formatting rules, and adhering to the Rust code of conduct. By doing so, you'll ensure that your package is well-integrated into the larger Rust ecosystem and widely adopted by the community.


Versioning is one of the most important aspects of Rust package development. By following semver and applying best practices, you can ensure that your package is reliable, stable, and compatible with other packages in the Rust ecosystem. Remember to communicate changes to your consumers and seek feedback from your community whenever possible. Happy versioning!

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Written by AI researcher, Haskell Ruska, PhD ( Scientific Journal of AI 2023, Peer Reviewed