Checking API stability

We have committed not to alter Corda’s API so that developers will not have to keep rewriting their CorDapps with each new Corda release. The stable Corda modules are listed here. Our CI process runs an “API Stability” check for each GitHub pull request in order to check that we don’t accidentally introduce an API-breaking change.

Build Process

As part of the build process the following commands are run for each PR:

$ gradlew generateApi
$ .ci/

This bash script has been tested on both MacOS and various Linux distributions, it can also be run on Windows with the use of a suitable bash emulator such as git bash. The script’s return value is the number of API-breaking changes that it has detected, and this should be zero for the check to pass. The maximum return value is 255, although the script will still correctly report higher numbers of breaking changes.

There are three kinds of breaking change:

  • Removal or modification of existing API, i.e. an existing class, method or field has been either deleted or renamed, or its signature somehow altered.
  • Addition of a new method to an interface or abstract class. Types that have been annotated as @DoNotImplement are excluded from this check. (This annotation is also inherited across subclasses and sub-interfaces.)
  • Exposure of an internal type via a public API. Internal types are considered to be anything in a *.internal. package or anything in a module that isn’t in the stable modules list here.

Developers can execute these commands themselves before submitting their PR, to ensure that they haven’t inadvertently broken Corda’s API.

How it works

The generateApi Gradle task writes a summary of Corda’s public API into the file build/api/api-corda-4.4.txt. The .ci/ script then compares this file with the contents of .ci/api-current.txt, which is a managed file within the Corda repository.

The Gradle task itself is implemented by the API Scanner plugin. More information on the API Scanner plugin is available here.

Updating the API

As a rule, api-current.txt should only be updated by the release manager for each Corda release.

We do not expect modifications to api-current.txt as part of normal development. However, we may sometimes need to adjust the public API in ways that would not break developers’ CorDapps but which would be blocked by the API Stability check. For example, migrating a method from an interface into a superinterface. Any changes to the API summary file should be included in the PR, which would then need explicit approval from R3.