Rename “task failure” to “task panic”, and fail! to panic!.


The current terminology of “task failure” often causes problems when writing or speaking about code. You often want to talk about the possibility of an operation that returns a Result “failing”, but cannot because of the ambiguity with task failure. Instead, you have to speak of “the failing case” or “when the operation does not succeed” or other circumlocutions.

Likewise, we use a “Failure” header in rustdoc to describe when operations may fail the task, but it would often be helpful to separate out a section describing the “Err-producing” case.

We have been steadily moving away from task failure and toward Result as an error-handling mechanism, so we should optimize our terminology accordingly: Result-producing functions should be easy to describe.

Detailed design

Not much more to say here than is in the summary: rename “task failure” to “task panic” in documentation, and fail! to panic! in code.

The choice of panic emerged from a discuss thread and workweek discussion. It has precedent in a language setting in Go, and of course goes back to Kernel panics.

With this choice, we can use “failure” to refer to an operation that produces Err or None, “panic” for unwinding at the task level, and “abort” for aborting the entire process.

The connotations of panic seem fairly accurate: the process is not immediately ending, but it is rapidly fleeing from some problematic circumstance (by killing off tasks) until a recovery point.


The term “panic” is a bit informal, which some consider a drawback.

Making this change is likely to be a lot of work.


Other choices include:

  • throw! or unwind!. These options reasonably describe the current behavior of task failure, but “throw” suggests general exception handling, and both place the emphasis on the mechanism rather than the policy. We also are considering eventually adding a flag that allows fail! to abort the process, which would make these terms misleading.

  • abort!. Ambiguous with process abort.

  • die!. A reasonable choice, but it’s not immediately obvious what is being killed.