[DEPRECATED] fe(a)rver - versioning for those of us who only care about breaking changes
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Fear-Driven Versioning

Disclaimer: this is just an idea. Please don't actually use this. Read more in this issue.

Fe(a)rVer - a versioning scheme for those of us who only care about breaking changes. This is similar to semver and uses the same operators like ~ and ^, but has slightly different as well as stricter semantics.

The primary differences are:

  • No patch version bumps are allowed for any changes that have a possibility of being a breaking change.
  • "minor" breaking changes are allowed in minor version bumps.

Large projects like jQuery effectively use this type of versioning as introducing breaking changes only in major versions would mean very high version numbers like Chrome and Firefox. Breaking changes are inevitable in software development, and we shouldn't make it any more difficult on ourselves. Ferver is more practical and is more inline with our common sense.

The primary purpose of this versioning scheme is to allow consumers of libraries to use ~x.y.z versioning without worrying about breaking changes as well as receiving updates. Semver's definition of a patch is simply too vague and idealistic.



Like semver, ferver uses the same 3-number versioning scheme:


However, the semantics for each number is different:

Number semver ferver
Major Breaking changes Major breaking changes
Minor New features Minor breaking changes
Patch Non-breaking bug fixes Non-breaking changes

Thus, for ferver, patch isn't really a "patch", just a "change", but we'll continue calling it patch because I can't think of a better word.


0.y.z versions are development versions. Consumers should not use libraries with only 0.y.z versions published. Authors should release a 1.0.0 version as soon as possible to declare a "stable" library.

The semantics for 0.y.z versions are very similar to x.y.z semantics. Unlike semver, there are defined semantics for versions < 1.0.0.

Number semver ferver
Major 0 0
Minor Undefined Breaking Changes
Patch Undefined Non-breaking changes

Thus, bump minor only if you introduce a breaking change in development (no matter how major or minor), and bump patch otherwise.


Ferver does not allow affixes. There's no 1.0.0-beta1 or 2.0.0-1. In other words, only "strict" versions are allowed. Development versions should be published in a different channel.

Consuming ferver packages

Consumers of packages using fear-driven versioning should not use ^x.y.z version ranges and instead should use ~x.y.z, whether or not x > 0.

Types of Changes

Major breaking changes

Major breaking changes are changes which fundamentally change the library.

  • You've broken a "majority" or the "primary" API.
  • You're combining many "minor" breaking changes.
  • You've completely removed some features.
  • You've decided to change the character, purpose, or philosophy of the library.
  • You've significantly refactored the library.

Developers should bump the major version on any breaking changes, but may instead opt for bumping the minor version if appropriate.

When you're not sure whether a breaking change is minor or major, it's a major breaking change.

Minor breaking changes

Minor breaking changes are relatively minor breaking changes in the library or changes that may introduce a breaking change.

  • You've changed how one of many APIs works.
  • You've deprecated any feature.
  • You've fixed a bug that people could have been using as a feature.
  • You've refactored a non-trivial portion of your code.
  • You've updated an external dependency that may introduce some breaking changes.
  • You've changed one of your dependencies.

Minor versions should be bumped liberally. If there's a > 0% change a change will break someone's app, you must bump the minor version, even if it's a "patch" according to semver.

Non-breaking changes

Non-breaking changes are changes that have absolutely no chance of breaking anything. When in doubt, bump a minor version.

  • Adding a completely new feature.
  • Fixing an obvious bug that no body could have relied on.
  • Documentation updates.
  • Updating package metadata.

Semver Compatibility

People may not expect this type of versioning scheme, so here are a few ways to improve semver compatibility.

Bump minor on new features

With ferver, new features shouldn't bump minor, only patch. This is more ideal as people who use ~x.y.z will then be able to receive the new feature. But this isn't really important since if the consumer needed this new feature in the first place, s/he wouldn't have used your library.

However, you're free to bump minor when you release a new feature since versioning isn't just about what has changed, but marketing as well. As long as you don't introducing any breaking changes on patch, you're good.

Bump major instead of minor whenever possible

Try to use the semver logic of major === breaking changes. This is impossible with larger projects like jQuery because breaking changes happen all the time to one of their many APIs. But if you have a very small library with very few APIs, it's easier to just bump major and not confuse any people.