Standard for Public Code

Document codebase maturity


  • A codebase MUST be versioned.
  • A codebase that is ready to use MUST only depend on other codebases that are also ready to use.
  • A codebase that is not yet ready to use MUST have one of these labels:
    • prototype - to test the look and feel, and to internally prove the concept of the technical possibilities,
    • alpha - to do guided tests with a limited set of users,
    • beta - to open up testing to a larger section of the general public, for example to test if the codebase works at scale,
    • pre-release version - code that is ready to be released but hasn’t received formal approval yet.
  • A codebase SHOULD contain a log of changes from version to version, for example in the CHANGELOG.

Why this is important

Clearly signalling a codebase’s maturity helps others decide whether to reuse, invest in or contribute to it.

What this does not do

  • Guarantee that others will use the code.

How to test

  • The codebase has a strategy for versioning which is documented.
  • It is clear where to get the newest version.
  • The codebase doesn’t depend on any codebases marked with a less mature status.

Policy makers: what you need to do

  • When developing policy, understand that any code developed needs to be tested and improved before it can be put into service.
  • Consider versioning policy changes, especially when they trigger new versions of the source code.

Management: what you need to do

  • Make sure that services only rely on codebases of equal or greater maturity than the service. For example, don’t use a beta codebase in a production service or a prototype codebase in a beta service.

Developers and designers: what you need to do

  • Add a prominent header to every interface that indicates the maturity level of the code.
  • Version all releases.
  • Especially in ‘rolling release’ scenarios, the version may be automatically derived from the version control system metadata (for example by using git describe).

Further reading