Stability attributes

This section is about the stability attributes and schemes that allow stable APIs to use unstable APIs internally in the rustc standard library.

For instructions on stabilizing a language feature see Stabilizing Features.

unstable

The #[unstable(feature = "foo", issue = "1234", reason = "lorem ipsum")] attribute explicitly marks an item as unstable. Items that are marked as "unstable" cannot be used without a corresponding #![feature] attribute on the crate, even on a nightly compiler. This restriction only applies across crate boundaries, unstable items may be used within the crate they are defined.

The unstable attribute infects all sub-items, where the attribute doesn't have to be reapplied. So if you apply this to a module, all items in the module will be unstable.

You can make specific sub-items stable by using the #[stable] attribute on them. The stability scheme works similarly to how pub works. You can have public functions of nonpublic modules and you can have stable functions in unstable modules or vice versa.

Note, however, that due to a rustc bug, stable items inside unstable modules are available to stable code in that location! So, for example, stable code can import core::intrinsics::transmute even though intrinsics is an unstable module. Thus, this kind of nesting should be avoided when possible.

The unstable attribute may also have the soft value, which makes it a future-incompatible deny-by-default lint instead of a hard error. This is used by the bench attribute which was accidentally accepted in the past. This prevents breaking dependencies by leveraging Cargo's lint capping.

stable

The #[stable(feature = "foo", "since = "1.420.69")] attribute explicitly marks an item as stabilized. To do this, follow the instructions in Stabilizing Features.

Note that stable functions may use unstable things in their body.

allow_internal_unstable

Macros, compiler desugarings and const fns expose their bodies to the call site. To work around not being able to use unstable things in the standard library's macros, there's the #[allow_internal_unstable(feature1, feature2)] attribute that whitelists the given features for usage in stable macros or const fns.

Note that const fns are even more special in this regard. You can't just whitelist any feature, the features need an implementation in qualify_min_const_fn.rs. For example the const_fn_union feature gate allows accessing fields of unions inside stable const fns. The rules for when it's ok to use such a feature gate are that behavior matches the runtime behavior of the same code (see also this blog post). This means that you may not create a const fn that e.g. transmutes a memory address to an integer, because the addresses of things are nondeterministic and often unknown at compile-time.

Always ping @oli-obk, @RalfJung, and @Centril if you are adding more allow_internal_unstable attributes to any const fn

staged_api

Any crate that uses the stable, unstable, or rustc_deprecated attributes must include the #![feature(staged_api)] attribute on the crate.

rustc_deprecated

The deprecation system shares the same infrastructure as the stable/unstable attributes. The rustc_deprecated attribute is similar to the deprecated attribute. It was previously called deprecated, but was split off when deprecated was stabilized. The deprecated attribute cannot be used in a staged_api crate, rustc_deprecated must be used instead. The deprecated item must also have a stable or unstable attribute.

rustc_deprecated has the following form:

#[rustc_deprecated(
    since = "1.38.0",
    reason = "explanation for deprecation",
    suggestion = "other_function"
)]

The suggestion field is optional. If given, it should be a string that can be used as a machine-applicable suggestion to correct the warning. This is typically used when the identifier is renamed, but no other significant changes are necessary.

Another difference from the deprecated attribute is that the since field is actually checked against the current version of rustc. If since is in a future version, then the deprecated_in_future lint is triggered which is default allow, but most of the standard library raises it to a warning with #![warn(deprecated_in_future)].

-Zforce-unstable-if-unmarked

The -Zforce-unstable-if-unmarked flag has a variety of purposes to help enforce that the correct crates are marked as unstable. It was introduced primarily to allow rustc and the standard library to link to arbitrary crates on crates.io which do not themselves use staged_api. rustc also relies on this flag to mark all of its crates as unstable with the rustc_private feature so that each crate does not need to be carefully marked with unstable.

This flag is automatically applied to all of rustc and the standard library by the bootstrap scripts. This is needed because the compiler and all of its dependencies are shipped in the sysroot to all users.

This flag has the following effects:

  • Marks the crate as "unstable" with the rustc_private feature if it is not itself marked as stable or unstable.
  • Allows these crates to access other forced-unstable crates without any need for attributes. Normally a crate would need a #![feature(rustc_private)] attribute to use other unstable crates. However, that would make it impossible for a crate from crates.io to access its own dependencies since that crate won't have a feature(rustc_private) attribute, but everything is compiled with -Zforce-unstable-if-unmarked.

Code which does not use -Zforce-unstable-if-unmarked should include the #![feature(rustc_private)] crate attribute to access these force-unstable crates. This is needed for things that link rustc, such as miri, rls, or clippy.