Posted Oct 16, 2006 13:17 UTC (Mon) by mrshiny
In reply to: Stable API
Parent article: Quote of the week
What I would like to see is a return, in part, to the approach used in the 2.2 and 2.4 kernels, where the kernel API was considered stable for the lifetime of the kernel. An API could be deprecated, indicating that it should no longer be used. After some period of time the API would be removed. Obviously this approach was not perfect but at least it allowed for out-of-tree drivers. I think it should be easier to separate the kernel from the drivers. With the current approach there is no deprecation period, and no warning to out-of-tree driver maintainers, thus making out-of-tree drivers "self-flaggelation".
Other projects are able to provide stable APIs (and sometimes ABIs as well) for long-lived releases. This problem is more complex in the kernel but I feel it should still be a design goal. However the kernel devs disagree and claim that not maintaining a stable API lets them improve the kernel faster. I think that if a stable API was seen as a requirement, like a stable user-space API is, they would just find a solution like they always do. Nobody seems concerned that user-space has to be stable for ever, while drivers may have incompatible APIs from point-release to point-release. I'm sure some middle ground could be found, where APIs could be deprecated for some time period and then removed eventually. Whether or not we need a stable branch with no new features, I can't say. I know lots of people would like to see that, but that isn't strictly necessary for a stable driver API or ABI.
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