Cryptography and SSL/TLS Toolkit

OpenSSL release versioning policy

This document describes the release versioning scheme used by the OpenSSL project from version 3.0.0 onwards. It also details the level of ABI and API compatibility each version represents.

Note: All examples herein are illustrative and do not constitute part of the versioning policy.

The version scheme consists a triple of numbers: major.minor.patch.

For example, the version 3.0.1 has a major version of 3, a minor version of 0 and a patch version of 1.

This closely aligns with the expectations of users who are familiar with semantic versioning. However, it is not quite semantic versioning because adopting semantic versioning would mean changing our current Long Term Support (LTS) policies and practices.

Major release

A major release is indicated by changing the first number of the version. A major release can, and generally will, introduce API and ABI breaking changes.

For example, a program that runs with OpenSSL 3.0.1 should not expect to run with OpenSSL 4.0.0 without modifications. If it does run, it might not be as efficient as it was.

In order to maintain stability and limit rework across major versions:

  • Existing public interfaces will remain unmodified except where changes are unlikely to break source compatibility or where structures are being made opaque.
  • No existing public interface can be removed until its replacement has been in place in an LTS stable release. The original interface must remain in at least one supported release for at least 5 years after it is first documented as deprecated in any release.
  • When structures are made opaque, any newly required accessor macros or functions are added in a feature release of the extant LTS release and all supported intermediate successor releases.

Exceptions to these rules require a vote by the OMC. See also the stable release update policy.

Minor release

A minor release is indicated by changing the second number of the version. A minor release can, and generally will, introduce new features. However both the API and ABI will be preserved.

For example, a program built with OpenSSL release 3.0.1 will be able to run with OpenSSL 3.1.0 but might not be able to take advantage of new features without modification.

Exceptions to these rules require a vote by the OMC.

Patch release

A patch release is indicated by changing the final number of the version. A patch release will only contain bug and security fixes. Both the API and ABI will remain compatible across patch releases.

For example, a program linked with OpenSSL release 3.0.0 can run with OpenSSL 3.0.1 without changes.

Exceptions to these rules require a vote by the OMC.

Long term stable release

A release can be designated as a long term stable (LTS) release. LTS releases will be supported for at least five years and the project will specify an LTS release at least every four years.

Supported releases

Non-LTS releases will be supported for at least two years.

During the final year of support for both LTS and non-LTS releases, we do not commit to anything other than security fixes. Before that, bug and security fixes will be applied as appropriate.

The addition of new platforms to both LTS and non-LTS releases is acceptable so long as the required changes consist solely of additions to configuration.

Pre-release versions

Before a major release the project will generally make a number of pre-releases. These are labelled alpha and beta releases.

Alpha release

An alpha release is one that:

  • is not necessarily feature complete and
  • does not necessarily includes all new APIs.

Beta release

A beta release is one that:

  • is feature complete;
  • indicates a feature freeze and
  • only bug fixes are permitted.


From release 1.0.0, but prior to release 3.0.0, the OpenSSL versioning scheme was different and it is detailed here for historic purposes.

  • Letter releases, such as 1.0.2a, exclusively contain bug and security fixes and no new features.
  • Releases that change the final number, e.g. 1.1.0 vs. 1.1.1, can and are likely to contain new features, but in a way that does not break binary compatibility. This means that an application compiled and dynamically linked with 1.1.0 does not need to be recompiled when the shared library is updated to 1.1.1.
  • Releases that change the second number, e.g. 1.0.0 vs 1.1.0, break both ABI and API compatibility. The primary instance of this was the transition to opaque internal structures that occurred with OpenSSL release 1.1.0.