Abseil Release Management

Abseil provides its repository as source code, and specifically does not offer binary releases. Instead, we encourage you to either “live at head” (build from the latest version of Abseil), or build against a known, supported branch, known as a Long Term Support (LTS) branch.

If you must provide Abseil within a binary or library (e.g. you are a package manager), we have provided a mechanism to help ensure that any embedded copy of Abseil uses the same copy of Abseil. For more information, consult the Abseil Options Guide.

This document outlines the specifics of what releases we provide, and options for how you build and distribute Abseil within your source code, binary, or library.

Long Term Support (LTS) Branches

Abseil encourages developers to “live at head” but we understand that philosophy may not work for everyone. We are therefore providing snapshots of the Abseil codebase. These snapshots are available as “Long Term Support” (LTS) branches of Abseil, and we intend to provide a new snapshot every 6 months or so.

We pledge to support these LTS snapshots for at least 2 years. If critical bug fixes, such as security issues, require us to change Abseil, we will also change them within any supported LTS snapshot.

NOTE: we don’t want you to think of these snapshots as “versions.” They are simply a snapshot of the codebase at a specific point in time. If you cannot build from source or otherwise live at head, prefer to use the latest LTS branch of Abseil instead.

Obtaining an LTS Branch

The set of LTS branches of Abseil is available on our GitHub releases page. Critical fixes to specific LTS branches will be published on this page.

Options for Using Abseil Code In Your Source Code or Binary

Including Abseil code in your project, as long as it is provided as source code or within your own binary, is relatively straightfoward. You have a few options, listed in order of higher preference:

  • Live at HEAD, depend on and build the latest snapshot of Abseil.

    • ENCOURAGED: For now, this requires manually updating the snapshot of Abseil used, for example, within a Bazel WORKSPACE file. Note that if you build from source and use an unsupported build system, we can’t support you at the moment, though we are open to adding support if you contact us or provide us with a pull request.
  • Tie your release to a specific snapshot of Abseil. This can be done in a few ways:

    • ALLOWED: Build Abseil from source at a Long Term Support (LTS) branch. LTS branches of Abseil are “supported” branches we aim to cut every 6 months, which will be frozen except for critical bug fixes, such as security patches. We enforce an LTS branch’s integrity through the use of inline namespaces.
    • DISCOURAGED: Build Abseil from source at a specific commit. This is straightforward, but you’re on your own if problems pop up.
    • DISCOURAGED: Copy Abseil code into your project and provide it within your own repository. Obviously, this makes maintenance difficult, though not impossible.
  • Embed a copy of Abseil within your binary. Although discouraged, we understand this is sometimes necessary:

    • ALLOWED: Embed a copy of Abseil using configurations within the Abseil options.h file. Consult the Abseil Options Guide.

Options for Including Abseil Code In Your Library

Including Abseil code in your library requires more care, as that library in turn may be used by other projects that depend on Abseil. In particular, to avoid ODR violations, your library must be built with the same compiler flags as other binaries or libraries using Abseil. See Abseil Compiler Flags. (Building Abseil with the different compiler flags would cause ABI changes between different builds of Abseil.)

  • ENCOURAGED: Distribute your source code, so users build both your library and Abseil at the same time.
  • ALLOWED: Distribute a static library built with an [LTS branch of Abseil][LTS]. Because LTS branches use inline namespaces for all absl:: symbols, collisions between potential Abseil “versions” should not occur, though your library may incur code bloat.
  • DISCOURAGED: Distribute a static library not based on an LTS branch of Abseil, that exports no Abseil symbols. This option implies that no Abseil types exist within your library’s public API, and all Abseil symbols must be hidden by the linker.
  • ALLOWED: Embed a copy of Abseil using configurations within the Abseil options.h file. Consult the Abseil Options Guide.
  • DISCOURAGED: Distribute a dynamic library. Abseil does not support dynamic loading or unloading of any shared libraries at this time. We are investigating if we can support dynamic loading without unloading. Consult our Compatibility Guidelines when in doubt.