Should we commit vendor in our Go projects?

Since the introduction of Go modules, the prevalent opinion on the internet is that we should NOT commit the vendor directory of our projects.

The argument against committing vendor is that it’s unnecessary, because the Go tools can resolve and find dependencies when needed on-the-fly. All public Go modules are also hosted by various Go Proxy servers for redundancy.

While I agree that it’s technically unnecessary and bloats the repo, I’d like to give some arguments in favour of committing vendor, go.mod and go.sum

Here is a list of arguments for committing vendor:

  • Building the project doesn’t depend on some code being available on Github/Gitlab/… or the Go Proxy servers. Open source projects may disappear because of censorship, authors incentives, licensing changes or some other reasons I can’t currently think of. Not in your repo, not your code.

  • We may use internal or 3rd party Go modules (private) which may also disappear or become inaccessible, but if they are committed in vendor, they are part of our project and nothing breaks unexpectedly.

  • Go modules may not follow semantic versioning, which means the Go tools will rely on the latest commit hash when fetching them on-the-fly. Repo history may be rewritten (e.g. rebase) and you, a colleague or your CI job may end up with different code for the dependencies they use.

  • Committing vendor can improve your code review process. Typically, I’m used to committing dependency changes in a separate commit, so they can be easily viewed if the reviewer is curious.

Here’s an interesting observation related to bloating the repo. If I make code review, and a team member has included a new dependency with 300 files (or updated one with 300 files changed), I would be pretty curious to deep dive into that and start a discussion about the code quality, the need for this change or alternative Go modules. This may lead us to actually decrease our binary size and overall complexity.

If I just see a single new line in go.mod in new MR, chances are I won’t even think about it.

  • CI/CD jobs which perform compilation and build steps need not waste time and network to download the dependencies every time the CI job is executed. All needed dependencies are local and present (go build -mod vendor)

  • As a pseudo argument I can ask why important open source Go projects like Kubernetes are committing vendor, if it’s not necessary?

Conclusion

For my own peace of mind I would always prefer to commit the vendor directory alongside go.mod and go.sum while at the same time try to keep the project dependencies at minimum.

warning

The vendor directory SHOULD NOT be committed for Go libraries, frameworks or code which doesn’t produce executable binaries, unless you have a really good reason to do it.