Request for Comments: Release Process

  • Version: 0.6
  • Date: 2010-11-22
  • Author: Felipe Pena, Etienne Kneuss, Stanislav Malyshev, Gustavo André dos Santos Lopes, David Soria Parra, Christian Stocker, Rob Richards, Pierre Joye, Zeev Suraski, Ilia Alshanetsky
  • Status: Accepted, Voting results


PHP releases have always been done spontaneously, in a somehow chaotic way. Individual(s) decided when a release will happen and what could or could fit in. Release managers role are unclear and the way to nominate them is not clearly defined either.

The goals of this RFC aim to solve these issues while giving to us, our users and 3rd parties (distributions, contributors, etc.) more visibility and the ability to actually have a roadmap, or plan developments. This RFC aims to define:

  • a clear release cycle, periodic
  • a transparent decision process for the feature additions, via the RFCs and a transparent and public vote
  • which changes can be done during a release lifetime (BC breaks, bug fixes, security fixes, etc.)
  • a transparent way to choose release managers for a given release
  • a better usage of bugs.php.net to track each change, addition, bug fixes (security incl.) or other various tasks related to a release
  • reduce time between bugs fix releases
  • reduce the time to get new features in a release
  • suppress BC breaks in bugs fix releases
  • feature(s) preview release

Releases Cycle

  • Yearly release cycle
  • 3 years release life cycle
    • 2 years bug fixes only
    • 1 year security fixes only

No feature addition after final x.y.0 release (or x.0.0). Self contained features or new SAPIs could be carefully considered on a case by case basis.

Backward compatibility must be respected with the same major releases, for example from 5.2 to 5.6. Binary compatibility can be broken between two features releases, f.e. between 5.3 and 5.4:

  • x.y.z to x.y.z+1
    • Bugfixes only (with a room for exceptions on a case by case basis and only for small self contained features additions).
    • Extensions support can't be removed (like move them to pecl)
    • Backward compatibility must be kept (internals and userland)
    • ABI/API compatibility must be kept (internals)
  • x.y.z to x.y+1.z
    • Bugfixes
    • New features
    • Extensions support can be ended (moved to pecl)
    • Backward compatibility must be kept
    • API compatibility must be kept (userland)
    • ABI and API can be broken (internals), src compatibility should be kept if possible, while breakages are allowed
  • x.y.z to x+1.0.0
    • Bugfixes
    • New features
    • Extensions support can be ended (moved to pecl)
    • Backward compatibility can be broken
    • API compatibility can be broken (internals and userland).
    • ABI can be broken (internals)

It is critical to understand the consequences of breaking BC, APIs or ABIs (only internals related). It should not be done for the sake of doing it. RFCs explaining the reasoning behind a breakage and the consequences along with test cases and patch(es) should help.

See the following links for explanation about API and ABI:

Example time line with only one major version at a time

**** pre release phase
++++ release lifetime with all bug fixes, no feature addition
---- release lifetime security  fixes only
D    EOL
Version Time ->
       2011        2012       2013         2014        2015        2016        2017
        |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |
5.3     +++++++++++++-----D
5.4     |*****+++++++++++++++++++++++++-----------D
5.5     |     |     |******++++++++++++++++++++++++-----------D
5.6     |     |     |     |     |******++++++++++++++++++++++++-----------D
6.0     |     |     |     |                 |******++++++++++++++++++++++++-----------D
6.1     |     |     |     |                             |******++++++++++++++++++++++++-----------D

Example time line with two majors versions

However it could happen that a new major version is desired while the active major version is still heavily used. Like what we had between php 4 and 5 or for the oldest, between php 3 and 4.

**** pre release phase
++++ release lifetime bugs
---- release lifetime security only
D    EOL
Version Time ->
       2011        2012       2013         2014        2015        2016        2017
        |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |
5.3     +++++++++++++-----D
5.4     |*****+++++++++++++++++++++++++-----------D     |     |     |     |     | 
5.5     |     |     |******++++++++++++++++++++++++-----------D     |     |     |
5.6     |     |     |           |******++++++++++++++++++++++++-----------D
6.0     |     |     |******++++++++++++++++++++++++-----------D     |     |
6.1     |     |     |           |******++++++++++++++++++++++++-----------D

Timeline example for a release

  • June
    • Decisions which features or changes will be in the next release
    • 1st release alpha (may have many alpha)
  • At least one release per month, more at wish
  • September, RC phases, biweekly release
    • each RC should go through the QA before being published
      • usually 2 days
      • running the various test suites (phpt, custom real life tests, platform specific tests). Some tests need a day to run
  • November, Final
    • Last RC taken as final, golden release (no change between the last RC and the final version)

Feature selection and development

RFCs have been introduced two years ago and have been proven as being an amazing way to avoid conflicts while providing a very good way to propose new things to php.net. New features or additions to the core should go through the RFC process. It has been done successfully (as the process went well, but the features were not necessary accepted) already for a dozen of new features or improvements.

Features can use branch(es) if necessary, doing so will minimize the impact of other commits and changes on the development of a specific feature (or the other way 'round). The shorter release cycle also ensures that a given feature can get into the next release, as long as the RFC has been accepted.

The change to what we have now is the voting process. It will not happen anymore on the mailing list but in the RFCs directly, for php.net members, in a public way.

See also the voting RFC.

The question for this section is about who will be allowed to vote:

  • php-src (yes, no)
  • php-doc (yes, no)
  • qa, *phpt (yes, no)
  • other sub projects like pear (yes, no)

We have voting plugin for dokuwiki (doodle2) that allows voting on the wiki (installed).

RMs Role

The roles of the release managers are about being a facilitator:

  • Manage the release process
  • Start the decisions discussions and vote about the features and change for a given release
  • Create a roadmap and planing according to this RFC
  • Package the releases (test and final releases)
  • Decide which bug fixes can be applied to a release, within the cases defined in this RFC

But they are not:

  • Decide which features, extension or SAPI get in a release or not

Discussions or requests for a feature or to apply a given patch must be done on the public internals mailing list or in the security mailing (ideally using the bug tracker)

Release managers selection

The release managers team should be selected in a more transparent way. The ideal way is again to go through a proposal and a vote. The same system than the RFCs can obviously be used for the release managers selection.

The volunteers (a team of two persons) can add propose themselves via the mailing list and they will be added to a RFC page. A week between the last call and the vote should be sufficient (given that anyone can volunteer himself for the next release at any time). The vote takes place for a week.


  • John/Fred (yes, no)
  • Ted/Georges (yes, no)
  • Leon/Nikita (yes, no)

The team with the most votes will be then the RMs for the given release. One person cannot be a RM for more than one release at the same time.

Again, one of the questions for this section is about who will be allowed to vote:

  • php-src (yes, no)
  • php-doc (yes, no)
  • qa, *phpt (yes, no)
  • other sub projects like pear (yes, no)

NB: the poll plugin will be installed shortly

Feature(s) preview release, solving the experimental features

Some features require a lot of testing or users feedback before they can be considered as ready, stable enough or proven as having made good design decisions. Having them in normal releases is dangerous. The past releases told us more that once than many good ideas ended as being not so good after all. But we had to keep them in and, even worst, maintain them forever.

A feature preview release could solve this problem. A feature(s) preview release gives us and our users a way to try bleeding edge additions to the language or core while providing us with an invaluable feedback to actually valid both the implementation and the design choices.

Non core features (engine, stream, etc.) could benefit from a feature preview release while doing it via PECL should be the preferred way.

Feature(s) preview releases can happen any time and can be platform specific. Whether a specific development branch is used or not is up to the developers of the given features (external repositories like github or bitbucket can obviously be used as well).

Security Management

  • Each security flaw must have a CVE id before the final release.
  • Ideally security issues and their fixes are reported and discussed in the issues tracker
    • Needs a 'security' flag in bugs.php.net (implemented, a CVE field has been added as well)
    • Methods to reproduce a flaw may remain non public (on a case by case basis)
    • Be sure that the security team of each major distributions have access to the security reports, before public release



  • Added API/ABI clarification
  • Added vote code in /vote


  • Added RMs sections
  • Public votes instead of private
  • Added new proposers
rfc/releaseprocess.txt · Last modified: 2017/09/22 13:28 by