Stable interface policy

(Redirected from Deprecation)

The stable interface policy for MediaWiki PHP code defines what parts of the software are considered stable and safe for use by other components. Code that is considered part of this "stable interface" is subject to the deprecation process.

Quick guideEdit

Using codeEdit

Writing codeEdit

When changing existing code:

  • Keep public methods and hook signatures compatible for callers. Follow the deprecation process for breaking changes.
  • Keep constructor signatures compatible, if it is marked @stable to call.
  • Keep method signatures compatible for subclasses, if the method is marked @stable to override.

When creating new code:

  • When defining hooks, keep the signature minimal. Expose narrow interfaces, ideally only pure value objects, as parameters.
  • Avoid using interfaces as extension points. It is recommended to use an abstract base class instead. See Stable to extend.


  • Authors: You are working on something that others will use. For example, a class in MediaWiki core that extensions can use.
  • Users: You are working on something that uses a stable interface. For example, a class in an extension that interacts with MediaWiki core.
  • Wikimedia maintained code is defined as as any code running on Wikimedia sites or officially published by Wikimedia for use by others.
  • The MediaWiki ecosystem includes community mantained extensions that meet the criteria described in the "Ecosystem" section below.

Definition of the stable interfaceEdit

Stable to callEdit

It's generally stable to call public methods and access public class fields – unless these are marked otherwise.
It's generally not stable to directly instantiate classes using the new operator – unless these are marked as @newable.

Stable to call can apply to methods and functions. It means they stay backwards-compatibility between releases. This stability applies to both the behavior (its contract), and the signature. Breaking changes that would impact callers must follow the deprecation process.

Note that methods are not stable to override by default.


  • Global functions of which the name starts with the "wf" prefix.
  • Public methods on any class instance.
  • Protected methods of a class that is stable to extend.
  • All methods in traits that are stable to use.
  • Constructor methods that are marked @stable to call. This means their class will be considered "newable" and thus may be instantiated using the new operator in any code.
  • Constructor methods of classes marked @newable.

Not included:

  • Any constructor method, unless marked @stable to call.
  • Any method or function marked @deprecated, @internal or @unstable.
  • Legacy class methods that do not have an explicit visibility modifier. These are technically public, but considered unstable.

For authors:

  • It is recommended to only mark constructors as stable to call if they are for value objects or for extendable classes.
  • When making a constructor method @stable to call, consider marking the class it belongs to as @newable. This technically provides the stability guruantee, and is used to in discoverability of the stable constructor, and as self-documenting way to encourage a usage pattern through the new operator. It is at the author's discretion to decide whether or not to mark a class with a stable constructor as @newable. For example, if the class is generally only constructed through an intermediary utility method or subclass, then it may benefit users to not draw attention to the constructor.
  • For complex classes that may involve dependency injection, you should avoid making the constructor stable to call, as this means adding or changing dependencies would constitute a breaking change that requires following the deprecation process.

Stable to typeEdit

It's generally stable to mention interfaces and classes in type hints for parameters and return values.

Stable to type can apply to interfaces and classes. It means the type will continue to exist between releases and provide at least the same public methods that are stable to call. You can type against these interfaces and classes from various contexts; such as argument type declarations ("type hints"), return types, catch statements, and instanceof assertions.

Remember that by default interfaces are not stable to implement, and thus methods may be widened or added without notice. As PHP requires implementations to define all methods and use the same or narrower signatures, these would normally be breaking changes, but are backwards-compatible for the purpose of typehints and calling methods. For the same reason, an interface may become a class, and a class may become an interface without notice, unless it provides additional guarantees such as @stable to extend, @stable to implement, or @newable.


  • All classes and interfaces.

Not included:

  • Any class or interface marked @deprecated, @internal or @unstable.

For authors:

  • Avoid using interfaces as extension points. It is recommended to use an abstract base class instead. See Stable to extend.
  • When you do create interfaces, it is recommended that you explicitly mark them as @stable to type. This is intended to aid the discovery of limited guarantees around interfaces.

Stable to extendEdit

It's generally not stable to extend classes – unless these are marked @stable to extend. This means constructor signatures may break, protected methods are unstable, and new abstract methods may be added without notice.

Stable to extend can apply to classes. It means the class and its methods will stay backward-compatible between releases and may be subclassed anywhere. Changes that affect subclasses will follow the deprecation process. Protected (and public) methods of extendable classes are automatically stable to call, unless they are marked @deprecated, @internal or @unstable. Remember that by default methods remain not stable to override, unless they are abstract.


  • Only classes that are marked @stable to extend.

For authors:

  • When allowing extensions to create additional classes of a certain type, it is recommended you provide an abstract base class (marked stable to extend) instead of an interface. This is because is not possible to use deprecation in an interface. If you mark an interface as stable to implement, you commit to never changing its method signatures, and never adding new methods – unless the interface as a whole is deprecated first.

Stable to useEdit

It's generally not stable to use traits – unless these are marked @stable to use. This means method signatures may break and new abstract methods may be added without notice.

Stable to use can apply to traits. It means all methods defined in the trait will stay backward-compatible between releases. Changes that affect classes using the trait will follow the deprecation process. All methods of usable traits are automatically stable to call, unless they are marked @deprecated, @internal or @unstable. Remember that by default methods remain not stable to override, unless they are abstract.


  • Only traits that are marked @stable to use.

Stable to accessEdit

It's generally not stable to write to public and protected fields, but it is stable to read them.

Stable to access applies to fields of most classes. It means that the field will not be removed, and its behavior will not change, without going through the deprecation process. It however does not mean that they will keep being read, so there is no guarantee that writing to them will have the desired effect in the future, unless such a guarantee is explicitly given in the documentation of the field.


Not included:

  • write access
  • any field marked as @deprecated, @internal or @unstable

For authors:

  • Public fields should generally be avoided in favor of getters and setters.
  • Base classes should generally not expect subclasses to modify protected fields directly. If this is desired, it must be explicitly documented.
  • When hard deprecating a field that is stable to access, PHP's magic __get() and __set() methods SHOULD be used to trigger a deprecation warning.

Stable to implementEdit

It's generally not stable to implement interfaces – unless these are marked @stable to implement. This means existing signatures may change and new required methods may be added without notice.

Stable to implement can apply to interfaces. It means they will stay backward-compatible between releases and may be implemented anywhere. Changes that affect implementations will follow the deprecation process.


  • Only interfaces that are marked @stable to implement.

For authors:

  • Do not add methods to interfaces marked as @stable to implement.
  • Do not break method signatures in interfaces that are @stable to implement.
  • Any hook interface that is documented should be marked @stable to implement.
  • Avoid using interfaces as extension points other than hook interfaces. It is recommended to use an abstract base class instead. See Stable to extend.

Stable to overrideEdit

It's generally not stable to override methods in subclasses unless the method is marked @stable to override.

Stable to override can apply to class methods and hooks. It means the method signature will remain compatible for overriding, and the method or callback will continue to be called in relevant circumstances. Changes to that contract must follow the deprecation process.


  • Any hook that is documented. For the sake of this policy, hook callbacks are treated as implementations of abstract methods. Hook interfaces follow the normal rules for interfaces. Note that since MediaWiki release 1.35, it is preferred for extensions to implement hook interfaces, rather than registering hook callbacks.
  • Methods that are declared as abstract in classes that are stable to extend.
  • Any method marked @stable to override.

Not included:

  • Any method marked @deprecated, @internal or @unstable.

For authors:

When hard deprecating code that is stable to override,

  • a deprecation warning SHOULD be triggered in case the method is overridden by a subclass, typically using MWDebug::detectDeprecatedOverride.
  • the method MUST still be called if it is overridden.

Global variablesEdit

It's not stable to use global variables.

Global variables are not stable, not even those with the "wg" prefix.

For users:

  • To access site configuration, use MediaWikiServices::getMainConfig() instead.
  • To access service objects, use MediaWikiServices::get* methods instead.

For authors:

  • When access to global state cannot be avoided, static methods SHOULD be used.

Stability annotationsEdit

Add guaranteesEdit

The @stable annotations can be followed by a Since segment to indicate that a particular use of the class or method is only supported since a specific version. For example:

 * @since 1.17
 * @stable to extend Since 1.35
class Foo {
    /* … */

The @stable annotations can be followed by a Deprecated since segment to indicate that a particular use of the class or method is currently deprecated. This can be used to indicate that extensions should no longer subclass, but may still call public methods. This guruantee may then be removed in the next release. Note that there is currently no hard-deprecation for the removal of stability guarantees.

 * @stable to extend Deprecated since 1.35
class Foo {
    /* … */

Remove guaranteesEdit

  • @internal: Do not use outside the original module. It may change without notice.
  • @unstable: It may change without notice. Similar to @internal, except that unstable things are aimed at external use and intended to become stable in the future.
  • @deprecated: This means something should not be used as this may be removed in a future release, per the deprecation process. This must include a since segment, and must include instructions for what to use instead (or state that there is no alternative). For example:
 * @deprecated Since 1.35, use expandFoo() instead.
public function getSomething( Foo $foo );

Deprecation processEdit

Deprecation becomes necessary when the public interface of code needs to be changed in order to add new functionality or improve architecture. All code that falls within the scope of this policy and defines a stable interface is subject to the deprecation process defined here.

The deprecation process generally consists of the following steps, described in more detail below:

  1. soft deprecation, immediately followed by updating any code using the deprecated functionality.
  2. hard deprecation, as soon as the deprecated code appears to be unused, ideally within the same release as soft deprecation.
  3. removal of the deprecated code, after at least one release branch has been cut and at least three months have passed.

The purpose of the deprecation process is to remove usages of deprecated functionality, so that it can be dropped without breaking callers. Usage of deprecated code is considered more or less problematic depending on where it occurs: the most critical usages are within the same repository, followed by Wikimedia maintained code, further followed by code in the MediaWiki ecosystem. Usages outside the ecosystem are considered the least relevant.

This means that Wikimedia maintained code MUST receive special attention in the deprecation process, and extensions in the MediaWiki ecosystem SHOULD be given consideration and support during the deprecation process. and ExtensionDistributor can be used as indicators for an extension's relevance.

Individuals, teams and organizations that deprecate code MUST commit to follow through with the deprecation process until the obsolete code has been removed, and they SHOULD be proactive about supporting maintainers of affected code in the MediaWiki ecosystem.

Soft deprecationEdit

Soft deprecation occurs when a developer adds a @deprecated annotation to the documentation comment of a method, function, class, or interface.

The following rules apply to soft deprecation:

  • The documentation comment MUST mention what the alternative method or migration path is. If there is no alternative, it should state that.
  • The documentation comment MUST state what MediaWiki core version the deprecation occurred in.
  • As long as is only soft deprecated, it SHOULD function the same as prior to deprecation. If not possible, a best effort SHOULD be made to provide similar functionality that covers typical use cases.
  • Any relevant documentation in the Git repository and on MUST be updated once the change is approved.
  • The deprecation MUST be mentioned in the relevant RELEASE-NOTES file, and MAY also be mentioned in the "Upgrade notices for MediaWiki administrators" section of the wiki release page depending upon severity. Deprecation of hooks MUST be documented on the Manual:Hooks page.
  • Developers or teams deprecating code SHOULD remove usages in Wikimedia maintained code as soon as possible.
  • Developers or teams deprecating code SHOULD actively support removal of usages in code in the MediaWiki ecosystem, especially in popular extensions. This includes making maintainers aware of the deprecation as well as creating or reviewing patches removing usages.
  • Soft deprecated code SHOULD be unused in Wikimedia maintained code and hard deprecated as soon as possible, ideally before the next release branch is cut.
  • If the deprecated code is unused in Wikimedia maintained code at the time of deprecation, it SHOULD be hard deprecated immediately.

Hard deprecationEdit

Hard deprecation occurs when the code starts emitting deprecation warnings, typically by calling wfDeprecated( __METHOD__, '1.xx' );. Deprecation warnings cause unit tests to fail.

If it is not reasonably possible for the deprecated code to emit deprecation warnings, hard deprecation can be applied by announcing the removal on wikitech-l in a timely manner. The announcement must explain why deprecation warnings cannot be emitted, and provide an opportunity for affected parties to raise concerns and propose alternatives. In addition, the affected code MUST be annotated with a @warning tag that announces the release in which removal is intended. This procedure is suitable e.g. for the deprecation of global variables, interfaces, and traits.

The following rules apply to hard deprecation:

  • Code that is hard deprecated MUST also be soft deprecated.
  • The version number in the wfDeprecated() call MUST match the one in the @deprecate annotation, even if the hard deprecation occurs in a different release.
  • Any soft deprecated code SHOULD be hard deprecated as soon as it is no longer used in any Wikimedia maintained code.
  • Hard deprecated code MAY act as no-ops instead of actually functioning, though this is not recommended.
  • Hard deprecation MUST NOT be applied to code still used in Wikimedia maintained code. Such usage MUST be removed first.
  • Deprecation with far-reaching impact SHOULD by announced by email to wikitech-l or mediawiki-l.


The following rules apply to the removal of code:

  • Obsolete behavior MAY be removed after it has been hard deprecated for three months in the development version (the master branch) as well as in one major release, using either deprecation warnings or public announcement as described in the hard deprecation section.
  • Obsolete behavior MAY be removed right away if it appears to have never been used within the Wikimedia maintained code and the MediaWiki ecosystem (except in the repo that defines it), and seems unlikely to be used elsewhere.
  • When determining the timeline for removal, developers SHOULD weigh the cost of maintaining the deprecated code against the difficulty of updating extensions that rely on it.
  • All removals of code that falls under the stable interface policy MUST be mentioned in the relevant RELEASE-NOTES file.
  • Removals that may have a severe impact SHOULD be mentioned in the "Upgrade notices for MediaWiki administrators" section of the wiki release page.
  • As one of the principles of MediaWiki, developers MUST ensure any removals will not cause issues an Wikimedia sites. Any removals that cause issues on the live site will be reverted by Wikimedia system administrators.

Further guidanceEdit

  • Usages in code that is itself deprecated, or can only be activated by deprecated configuration settings, SHOULD be ignored for the purpose of this process.
  • Code that was never part of a public release MAY be changed or removed without deprecation, since it has never become part of the stable interface.
  • Developers SHOULD consider the impact of their proposed changes by searching for existing usage in extensions using tools such Codesearch .
  • Deprecations and removals SHOULD NOT be performed shortly before a release branch or between release candidates, to give extension authors time to fix any issues that may arise, and avoid broken snapshots of extensions.
  • Deprecations and removals MUST first take place on the master branch. Deprecations and removals SHOULD NOT be backported to release branches or release candidates.
  • Developers SHOULD deprecate related parts of code together so affected code can be updated all at once.
  • When a task is related to a deprecation, it is RECOMMENDED to tag it specifically in the bug tracker; for instance with the "Deprecation process" tag in Phabricator.

And finally: As with all policies, developers should apply their best judgement when applying it.



The motivation for this policy is two-fold:

  • Offer guarantees to extension developers, providing guidance on what aspects of MediaWiki core they can safely rely upon.
  • Provide guarantees to developers working on MediaWiki core, telling them what aspects of the code they can safely change without having to worry about breaking extensions.

This policy is designed to make extensions more robust against changes in MediaWiki core, and provide more freedom for MediaWiki core code to evolve.


This policy is mainly written to define a contract between MediaWiki core and MediaWiki extensions, but it also applies to the relationship between MediaWiki and libraries it uses, as well as dependencies between extensions. It applies to the following:

  • PHP code of MediaWiki core (mediawiki/core.git) as published in official releases.
  • Libraries maintained by Wikimedia, inside the core repository or in separate repositories, as published in official releases.
  • Extensions maintained by Wikimedia only if they offer extension points such as hooks, or explicitly opt into this policy. Per default, extensions are themselves not considered extensible, and do not offer a stable interface.
  • Code in a repository in the MediaWiki ecosystem if and only if it explicitly opts into this policy.

This policy does not apply to the following:

  • Any unreleased code, in particular code as it is on the master or a development branch of the repository.
  • Web APIs such as api.php or rest.php.
  • client-side JavaScript
  • The structure of HTML output from index.php and other endpoints
  • The structure of dumps or exports
  • The database schema as exposed on Wikimedia Labs.

Those may have their own policies and practices for maintaining stable interfaces.


Providing a stable interface enables a community of third parties to create and maintain components, forming a "software ecosystem". For the purpose of this policy, the MediaWiki Ecosystem is though to consist of extensions actively maintained by entities other than the Wikimedia Foundation, if they meet all of the following criteria:

Extension developers are encouraged to make their code available in the way described above, so it can be used by others. Per this policy, such extensions will in return receive consideration and support when breaking changes need to be made. For this purpose, such extensions are automatically index by the codesearch tool.