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What is trunk-based development?

Trunk-based development is a software development approach where all developers work on a single branch (often called the “trunk” or “mainline”) of a version control system, such as Git. In trunk-based development, developers commit their changes directly to this mainline branch without creating long-lived feature branches.

Key characteristics of trunk-based development include:

  1. Single Branch: There is only one mainline branch, which serves as the primary development branch. All changes, including bug fixes and new features, are committed directly to this branch.
  2. Frequent Commits: Developers commit their changes to the mainline branch frequently, often multiple times a day. This ensures that changes are integrated and tested continuously.
  3. Continuous Integration (CI): Continuous Integration practices are typically used to automatically build, test, and validate changes as they are committed to the mainline branch. This helps identify issues early and ensures the mainline branch remains stable.
  4. Feature Flags: Feature flags or toggles are often used to hide incomplete or experimental features from end-users until they are ready for release. This allows developers to merge changes to the mainline branch without affecting the user experience.
  5. Rolling Deployments: Changes are continuously deployed to production or staging environments as they are merged into the mainline branch. This enables rapid feedback and allows teams to respond quickly to issues.

Trunk-based development promotes collaboration, reduces integration overhead, and fosters a culture of continuous delivery. However, it requires strong discipline, automated testing, and effective use of feature flags to ensure that changes are always deployable and that the mainline branch remains stable.


  • What are the benefits of trunk-based development?

    Trunk-based development promotes collaboration among developers, reduces integration conflicts, ensures continuous integration, enables faster feedback loops, and facilitates rapid deployment of changes to production.

  • How does trunk-based development differ from feature branching?

    In trunk-based development, all developers work on a single mainline branch, committing their changes directly to it. Feature branching involves creating separate branches for each feature or task, which are later merged back into the main branch after completion.

  • How do teams manage long-running features or experiments in trunk-based development?

    Teams use feature flags or toggles to hide incomplete features or experiments from end-users until they are ready for release. This allows changes to be merged into the mainline branch without impacting the user experience.

  • What challenges might teams face when adopting trunk-based development?

    Challenges may include ensuring discipline among developers to commit small and frequent changes, managing feature flags effectively, handling dependencies between changes, and ensuring the mainline branch remains stable at all times.

  • How does trunk-based development support continuous delivery and continuous deployment?

    Trunk-based development enables continuous delivery and deployment by ensuring that changes are always integrated and tested in the mainline branch, allowing for rapid and frequent releases to production environments.