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Breaking Changes Policy

To ensure the long-term reliability of both the SDK and applications which rely on the SDK, the following policy is enforced for each release of the SDK.


This breaking changes policy is only enforced for libraries which explicitly state it as their governing policy. In certain cases, a library governed by this breaking changes policy may depend on a library which is not governed by the same policy, or which does not provide any breaking changes policy. In those cases, a best-effort is provided to ensure changes to the dependency do not affect dependent code. For maximum long-term compatibility, dependent applications and libraries should treat dependencies not governed by this policy in accordance with the rules described for preliminary features, even though they are not marked as such within the documentation.

Binary compatible

An assembly x is binary compatible with an assembly y if replacing y with x will not cause an application previously compiled against y to stop functioning at runtime.

Note Note

Binary compatibility is transitive, but not necessarily symmetric. Specifically, the assembly x may include new APIs that are not included in y; since the application compiled against y is clearly not using any of these new APIs, they do not prevent x from being binary compatible with y.

Source compatible

An assembly x is source compatible with an assembly y if replacing y with x will not cause an application previously compiled against y to encounter build errors when it is recompiled.


A version is comprised of four parts, with the following form.


Each part of the version number is an integer in the range 0-65535, inclusive.

Major release

A major release is a release which increments the "major" part of the version.

Minor release

A minor release is a release which increments the "minor" part of the version, but does not change the "major" part.

Patch release

A patch release is a release which increments the "patch" and/or "revision" parts of the version, but does not change either the "major" or "minor" parts.

Preliminary feature

A preliminary feature is a special designation for a publicly-exposed API in the library which is exempted from certain rules within the breaking changes policy for the purpose of improving the agility of library development without compromising reliability for business users primarily interested in API stability.

Stable feature

A stable feature is any type or member within the publicly-exposed API of the library which is not designated as a preliminary feature.

Major and Minor Releases

Major and minor releases do not preserve binary compatibility. For dependent assemblies which use a strong name, the binary incompatibility is enforced by a change to the strong name of the assembly. Major and minor releases update the value of the AssemblyVersionAttribute attribute, which always changes the strong name of the assembly.

Minor releases are typically used for the following.

  • Promotion of features previously marked as preliminary to stable features of the API.

  • Changes to stable features of the API where necessary for the purpose of introducing new functionality, addressing performance concerns, or correcting bugs in the library.

Major releases are typically used for substantial refactoring or other alterations in order to meet the needs of a broader user base, or for the purpose of improving overall usability or flexibility of the library.

Patch Releases

Patch releases preserve binary compatibility for all features of the library which are not marked preliminary. This includes but is not limited to the following guarantees.

  • Patch releases never change the strong name of the assembly. This means a patch release updates the AssemblyFileVersionAttribute and AssemblyInformationalVersionAttribute values, but does not change the AssemblyVersionAttribute value.

  • Patch releases do not change the runtime signature of any type or method which is not marked preliminary. The runtime signatures include type and method names

  • Patch releases may only add elements to the public API of the assembly if they are marked preliminary. This rule ensures that patch releases preserve symmetric binary compatibility for applications and libraries which avoid the use of any feature marked as preliminary.

Revision-Only Releases

In some cases, a release will only update the "revision" part of the version. With regard to this breaking changes policy, these releases are equivalent to patch releases. In practice, revision-only releases are typically reserved for correcting a previous patch or revision release which violated the breaking changes policy, or for correcting a bug which was introduced in the current patch cycle without making changes to the public API of the assembly.


Certain exceptions apply to the binary compatibility requirement of patch releases. These include the following.

  • All implementation details, i.e. code which is not part of the public API of the assembly, is allowed to change during a patch release. Code using the reflection APIs to manipulate any aspect of the library may observe breaking changes at runtime as a result of changes to implementation details.

  • All types and members which are marked as preliminary are exempted from the binary compatibility requirement, subject to the rules of preliminary features.

Summary of Release Characteristics

The following table summarizes the intent of various releases.

Release Type

Binary Compatibility

Source Compatibility

New Features







Relaxed Preferred2



Transitive: Required

Symmetric: Preferred3

Strict Preferred4

Preliminary Only3

  1. Since minor releases result in a change to the strong name of the assembly, binary compatibility is never preserved for strong-named applications or libraries which reference the assembly. These cases are rarely problematic due to the runtime's support for side-by-side loading of multiple versions of the same assembly.

  2. To minimize the cost of updating an application to use a new minor release of the library, source-incompatible changes should only be introduced when necessary to support a substantial improvement to the library. Eligible improvements include but are not limited to resource utilization, runtime performance, or new feature offerings.

  3. Restricting the introduction of features in a patch release to preliminary features provides applications the ability to leverage symmetric binary compatibility for maximum runtime reliability, by avoiding the use of any feature which is marked as preliminary.

  4. Changes to preliminary features may result in source code incompatibilities due to situations including but not limited to conflicts due to ambiguous names. In addition, changing the name of a required parameter for the purpose of correcting a spelling error or avoiding confusion is generally allowed due to a very low risk of actually causing compilation problems for users. Changes to the names of optional parameters, on the other hand, should be avoided whenever possible as users are likely to be referencing them directly by name.

Preliminary Features

This library may include types and/or members which are designated as preliminary features. The preliminary feature designation is indicated by a clear note at the top of the associated documentation page. In the library source code, preliminary features are indicated by including the <preliminary/> element to the XML documentation comment for the feature. While preliminary features are much more "flexible" during the release cycle of the library, certain rules do apply in order to ensure the stronger rules provided for stable features will not be violated by a change to a preliminary feature. The following list includes examples of these rules, but other rules may be imposed by basic logical constraints. The API elements referred to in the following list are assumed to be restricted to the publicly-exposed API of the library. The terms "member" and "members" refer to any method, property, or event.

  • A member may only refer to a preliminary type in its signature if it is also marked preliminary.

  • An interface may only include a preliminary member if it is also marked preliminary.

  • An interface may only extend a preliminary interface if it is also marked preliminary.

  • A class may only include a preliminary abstract member if either it is also marked preliminary, or all constructors for the class are marked internal. This restriction also applies to abstract classes which do not implement an abstract member declared in a base class.