All stable builds of React go through a high level of testing and follow semantic versioning (semver). React also offers unstable release channels to encourage early feedback on experimental features. This page describes what you can expect from React releases.
Stable React releases (also known as “Latest” release channel) follow semantic versioning (semver) principles.
That means that with a version number x.y.z:
- When releasing critical bug fixes, we make a patch release by changing the z number (ex: 15.6.2 to 15.6.3).
- When releasing new features or non-critical fixes, we make a minor release by changing the y number (ex: 15.6.2 to 15.7.0).
- When releasing breaking changes, we make a major release by changing the x number (ex: 15.6.2 to 16.0.0).
Major releases can also contain new features, and any release can include bug fixes.
Minor releases are the most common type of release.
Breaking changes are inconvenient for everyone, so we try to minimize the number of major releases – for example, React 15 was released in April 2016 and React 16 was released in September 2017, and React 17 was released in October 2020.
Instead, we release new features in minor versions. That means that minor releases are often more interesting and compelling than majors, despite their unassuming name.
Commitment to stability
As we change React over time, we try to minimize the effort required to take advantage of new features. When possible, we’ll keep an older API working, even if that means putting it in a separate package. For example, mixins have been discouraged for years but they’re supported to this day via create-react-class and many codebases continue to use them in stable, legacy code.
Over a million developers use React, collectively maintaining millions of components. The Facebook codebase alone has over 50,000 React components. That means we need to make it as easy as possible to upgrade to new versions of React; if we make large changes without a migration path, people will be stuck on old versions. We test these upgrade paths on Facebook itself – if our team of less than 10 people can update 50,000+ components alone, we hope the upgrade will be manageable for anyone using React. In many cases, we write automated scripts to upgrade component syntax, which we then include in the open-source release for everyone to use.
Gradual upgrades via warnings
Development builds of React include many helpful warnings. Whenever possible, we add warnings in preparation for future breaking changes. That way, if your app has no warnings on the latest release, it will be compatible with the next major release. This allows you to upgrade your apps one component at a time.
Development warnings won’t affect the runtime behavior of your app. That way, you can feel confident that your app will behave the same way between the development and production builds — the only differences are that the production build won’t log the warnings and that it is more efficient. (If you ever notice otherwise, please file an issue.)
What counts as a breaking change?
In general, we don’t bump the major version number for changes to:
- Development warnings. Since these don’t affect production behavior, we may add new warnings or modify existing warnings in between major versions. In fact, this is what allows us to reliably warn about upcoming breaking changes.
- APIs starting with
unstable_. These are provided as experimental features whose APIs we are not yet confident in. By releasing these with an
unstable_prefix, we can iterate faster and get to a stable API sooner.
- Alpha and canary versions of React. We provide alpha versions of React as a way to test new features early, but we need the flexibility to make changes based on what we learn in the alpha period. If you use these versions, note that APIs may change before the stable release.
- Undocumented APIs and internal data structures. If you access internal property names like
__reactInternalInstance$uk43rzhitjg, there is no warranty. You are on your own.
This policy is designed to be pragmatic: certainly, we don’t want to cause headaches for you. If we bumped the major version for all of these changes, we would end up releasing more major versions and ultimately causing more versioning pain for the community. It would also mean that we can’t make progress in improving React as fast as we’d like.
That said, if we expect that a change on this list will cause broad problems in the community, we will still do our best to provide a gradual migration path.
If a minor release includes no new features, why isn’t it a patch?
It’s possible that a minor release will not include new features. This is allowed by semver, which states “[a minor version] MAY be incremented if substantial new functionality or improvements are introduced within the private code. It MAY include patch level changes.”
However, it does raise the question of why these releases aren’t versioned as patches instead.
The answer is that any change to React (or other software) carries some risk of breaking in unexpected ways. Imagine a scenario where a patch release that fixes one bug accidentally introduces a different bug. This would not only be disruptive to developers, but also harm their confidence in future patch releases. It’s especially regrettable if the original fix is for a bug that is rarely encountered in practice.
We have a pretty good track record for keeping React releases free of bugs, but patch releases have an even higher bar for reliability because most developers assume they can be adopted without adverse consequences.
For these reasons, we reserve patch releases only for the most critical bugs and security vulnerabilities.
If a release includes non-essential changes — such as internal refactors, changes to implementation details, performance improvements, or minor bugfixes — we will bump the minor version even when there are no new features.
All release channels
React relies on a thriving open source community to file bug reports, open pull requests, and submit RFCs. To encourage feedback we sometimes share special builds of React that include unreleased features.
This section will be most relevant to developers who work on frameworks, libraries, or developer tooling. Developers who use React primarily to build user-facing applications should not need to worry about our prerelease channels.
Each of React’s release channels is designed for a distinct use case:
- Latest is for stable, semver React releases. It’s what you get when you install React from npm. This is the channel you’re already using today. Use this for all user-facing React applications.
- Next tracks the main branch of the React source code repository. Think of these as release candidates for the next minor semver release. Use this for integration testing between React and third party projects.
- Experimental includes experimental APIs and features that aren’t available in the stable releases. These also track the main branch, but with additional feature flags turned on. Use this to try out upcoming features before they are released.
All releases are published to npm, but only Latest uses semantic versioning. Prereleases (those in the Next and Experimental channels) have versions generated from a hash of their contents and the commit date, e.g.
0.0.0-68053d940-20210623 for Next and
0.0.0-experimental-68053d940-20210623 for Experimental.
The only officially supported release channel for user-facing applications is Latest. Next and Experimental releases are provided for testing purposes only, and we provide no guarantees that behavior won’t change between releases. They do not follow the semver protocol that we use for releases from Latest.
By publishing prereleases to the same registry that we use for stable releases, we are able to take advantage of the many tools that support the npm workflow, like unpkg and CodeSandbox.
Latest is the channel used for stable React releases. It corresponds to the
latest tag on npm. It is the recommended channel for all React apps that are shipped to real users.
If you’re not sure which channel you should use, it’s Latest. If you’re a React developer, this is what you’re already using. You can expect updates to Latest to be extremely stable. Versions follow the semantic versioning scheme, as described earlier.
The Next channel is a prerelease channel that tracks the main branch of the React repository. We use prereleases in the Next channel as release candidates for the Latest channel. You can think of Next as a superset of Latest that is updated more frequently.
The degree of change between the most recent Next release and the most recent Latest release is approximately the same as you would find between two minor semver releases. However, the Next channel does not conform to semantic versioning. You should expect occasional breaking changes between successive releases in the Next channel.
Do not use prereleases in user-facing applications.
Releases in Next are published with the
next tag on npm. Versions are generated from a hash of the build’s contents and the commit date, e.g.
Using the next channel for integration testing
The Next channel is designed to support integration testing between React and other projects.
All changes to React go through extensive internal testing before they are released to the public. However, there are a myriad of environments and configurations used throughout the React ecosystem, and it’s not possible for us to test against every single one.
If you’re the author of a third party React framework, library, developer tool, or similar infrastructure-type project, you can help us keep React stable for your users and the entire React community by periodically running your test suite against the most recent changes. If you’re interested, follow these steps:
Set up a cron job using your preferred continuous integration platform. Cron jobs are supported by both CircleCI and Travis CI.
In the cron job, update your React packages to the most recent React release in the Next channel, using
nexttag on npm. Using the npm cli:npm update react@next react-dom@next
Or yarn:yarn upgrade react@next react-dom@next
Run your test suite against the updated packages.
If everything passes, great! You can expect that your project will work with the next minor React release.
If something breaks unexpectedly, please let us know by filing an issue.
A project that uses this workflow is Next.js. (No pun intended! Seriously!) You can refer to their CircleCI configuration as an example.
Like Next, the Experimental channel is a prerelease channel that tracks the main branch of the React repository. Unlike Next, Experimental releases include additional features and APIs that are not ready for wider release.
Usually, an update to Next is accompanied by a corresponding update to Experimental. They are based on the same source revision, but are built using a different set of feature flags.
Experimental releases may be significantly different than releases to Next and Latest. Do not use Experimental releases in user-facing applications. You should expect frequent breaking changes between releases in the Experimental channel.
Releases in Experimental are published with the
experimental tag on npm. Versions are generated from a hash of the build’s contents and the commit date, e.g.
What goes into an experimental release?
Experimental features are ones that are not ready to be released to the wider public, and may change drastically before they are finalized. Some experiments may never be finalized — the reason we have experiments is to test the viability of proposed changes.
For example, if the Experimental channel had existed when we announced Hooks, we would have released Hooks to the Experimental channel weeks before they were available in Latest.
You may find it valuable to run integration tests against Experimental. This is up to you. However, be advised that Experimental is even less stable than Next. We do not guarantee any stability between Experimental releases.
How can I learn more about experimental features?
Experimental features may or may not be documented. Usually, experiments aren’t documented until they are close to shipping in Next or Latest.
If a feature is not documented, they may be accompanied by an RFC.
We will post to the React blog when we’re ready to announce new experiments, but that doesn’t mean we will publicize every experiment.
You can always refer to our public GitHub repository’s history for a comprehensive list of changes.