GLEP 1: GLEP Purpose and Guidelines

Author Grant Goodyear <>, Michał Górny <>, Ulrich Müller <>
Type Informational
Status Active
Version 4
Created 2003-05-31
Last modified 2023-02-22
Posting history 2003-06-01, 2003-07-02, 2008-01-19, 2008-06-05, 2011-03-09, 2013-12-14, 2017-09-17, 2018-07-10, 2019-11-24
GLEP source glep-0001.rst


The GLEP concept, and, in fact, much of the text of this document, is liberally stolen from Python's [1] PEPs [2], especially PEP-0001 [3] by Barry A. Warsaw, Jeremy Hylton, and David Goodger.

What is a GLEP?

GLEP stands for "Gentoo Linux Enhancement Proposal". A GLEP is a design document providing information to the Gentoo Linux community, or describing a new feature for Gentoo Linux. The GLEP should provide a concise technical specification of the feature and rationale for the feature.

We intend GLEPs to be the primary mechanisms for proposing significant new features, for collecting community input on an issue, and for documenting the design decisions that have gone into Gentoo Linux. The GLEP author is responsible for building consensus within the community and documenting dissenting opinions.

Because the GLEPs are maintained as text files in a VCS, their revision history is the historical record of the feature proposal [4]. For older GLEPs, the base repository may provide an approximate history of the changes. The original changes can still be found in [5] for changes up to June 2013 and/or [6] for changes onwards up to September 2017.

Kinds of GLEPs

There are two kinds of GLEPs. A Standards Track GLEP describes a new feature or implementation for Gentoo Linux. An Informational GLEP provides general guidelines or information to the Gentoo Linux community, but does not propose a new feature. Informational GLEPs do not necessarily represent a Gentoo Linux community consensus or recommendation, so users and implementors are free to ignore Informational GLEPs or follow their advice.

GLEP Work Flow

The GLEP editors assign GLEP numbers and change their status. Please send all GLEP-related email to <>.

The GLEP process begins with a new idea for Gentoo Linux. It is highly recommended that a single GLEP contain a single key proposal or new idea. The more focused the GLEP, the more successful it tends to be. The GLEP editors reserve the right to reject GLEP proposals if they appear too unfocused or too broad. If in doubt, split your GLEP into several well-focused ones.

Each GLEP must have a champion -- someone who writes the GLEP using the style and format described below, shepherds the discussions in the appropriate forums, and attempts to build community consensus around the idea. The GLEP champion (a.k.a. Author) should first attempt to ascertain whether the idea is GLEP-able. Small enhancements or patches often don't need a GLEP and can be injected into the Gentoo Linux development work flow with an enhancement "bug" submitted to the Gentoo Linux bugzilla [7].

The GLEP champion then files a bug on Bugzilla in the GLEP product, under the "New GLEP submissions" component of the "Documentation" product and prepares a rough, but fleshed out, draft of the GLEP on a dedicated branch of the GLEP repository or a private fork of that repository. This draft must be written in GLEP style as described below and in GLEP 2.

If the GLEP editors accept the GLEP, they will assign the GLEP a number, label it as Standards Track (a better name would be nice here -- suggestions?) or Informational, give it status "Draft", and merge the initial draft of the GLEP to the master branch of the repository. The GLEP editors will not unreasonably deny a GLEP. Reasons for denying GLEP status include duplication of effort, being technically unsound, not providing proper motivation or addressing backwards compatibility, or not in keeping with Gentoo Linux philosophy.

If a pre-GLEP is rejected, the author may elect to take the pre-GLEP to the mailing list (for technical GLEPs) or the mailing list (for non-technical GLEPs) to help flesh it out, gain feedback and consensus from the community at large, and improve the GLEP for re-submission.

The author of the GLEP is then responsible for posting the GLEP to the gentoo-dev or gentoo-project mailing list (and additionally to the Gentoo Linux forums [8] if they so desire), and marshaling community support for it. As updates are necessary, the GLEP author should request merging changes to the master branch from a GLEP editor.

Standards Track GLEPs consist of two parts, a design document and a reference implementation. The GLEP should be reviewed and accepted before a reference implementation is begun, unless a reference implementation will aid people in studying the GLEP. Standards Track GLEPs must include an implementation -- in the form of code, patch, or URL to same -- before it can be considered Final.

GLEP authors are responsible for collecting community feedback on a GLEP before submitting it for review. A GLEP that has not been discussed on the mailing lists will not be accepted. However, wherever possible, long open-ended discussions on public mailing lists should be avoided. Strategies to keep the discussions efficient include setting up a specific forums thread for the topic, having the GLEP author accept private comments in the early design phases, etc. GLEP authors should use their discretion here.

Once the authors have completed a GLEP, they must inform the Gentoo Council [9] that it is ready for review by way of the appropriate mailing list. GLEPs are then reviewed at a Council meeting where they may be approved or rejected outright, or sent back to the author(s) for revision. This generally should be done a few weeks in advance of the actual review so as to avoid the appearance of "slipping" a GLEP in without proper public review by the Gentoo developer community. Any revisions should be added to the GLEP bug on Bugzilla.

For a GLEP to be approved it must meet certain minimum criteria. It must be a clear and complete description of the proposed enhancement. The enhancement must represent a net improvement. The proposed implementation, if applicable, must be solid and must not complicate the distribution unduly. Finally, a proposed enhancement must satisfy the philosophy of Gentoo Linux.

Once a GLEP has been accepted, the reference implementation must be completed. When the reference implementation is complete and accepted, the status will be changed to "Final".

A GLEP can also be assigned status "Deferred". The GLEP author or editor can assign the GLEP this status when no progress is being made on the GLEP. Once a GLEP is deferred, the GLEP editor can re-assign it to draft status.

A GLEP can also be "Rejected". Perhaps after all is said and done it was not a good idea. It is still important to have a record of this fact.

The "Withdrawn" status is similar - it means that the GLEP author has decided that the GLEP is actually a bad idea, or has accepted that a competing proposal is a better alternative.

GLEPs can also be replaced by a different GLEP, rendering the original obsolete (where version 2 of a policy, for example, might replace version 1).

If a "Final" GLEP becomes obsolete and requires no explicit replacement, it can be marked "Moribund".

GLEP work flow is as follows:

Draft -> Accepted -> Final -> Replaced
  ^                    |
  +----> Rejected      +----> Moribund
  +----> Withdrawn

Some Informational GLEPs may also have a status of "Active" if they are never meant to be completed, e.g. GLEP 1 (this GLEP).

What belongs in a successful GLEP?

Each GLEP should have the following parts:

  1. Preamble -- RFC 2822 style headers containing meta-data about the GLEP, including the GLEP number, a short descriptive title (limited to a maximum of 44 characters), the names, and optionally the contact info for each author, etc.

    Described further below.

  2. Abstract -- a short (~200 word) description of the technical issue being addressed.

  3. Motivation -- The motivation is critical for GLEPs that want to modify Gentoo Linux functionality. It should clearly explain why the existing functionality or policy is inadequate to address the problem that the GLEP solves. GLEP submissions without sufficient motivation may be rejected outright.

  4. Specification -- The technical specification should describe the specific areas of Gentoo Linux that would be touched by this GLEP. If new functionality is being introduced, what packages will that functionality affect? If new policy, who will be affected?

  5. Rationale -- The rationale fleshes out the specification by describing what motivated the design and why particular design decisions were made. It should describe alternate designs that were considered and related work, e.g. how the feature is supported in other distributions.

    The rationale should provide evidence of consensus within the community and discuss important objections or concerns raised during discussion.

  6. Backwards Compatibility -- All GLEPs must include a section describing any issues of backwards incompatibilities and their severity. The GLEP must explain how the author proposes to deal with these incompatibilities. (Even if there are none, this section should be included to clearly state that fact.) GLEP submissions without a sufficient backwards compatibility treatise may be rejected outright.

  7. Reference Implementation -- The reference implementation must be completed before any GLEP is given status "Final", but it need not be completed before the GLEP is accepted. It is better to finish the specification and rationale first and reach consensus on it before writing code or significantly modifying ebuilds.

  8. Copyright -- Every new GLEP must be explicitly labelled as licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC-BY-SA-4.0) [10]. Older GLEPs released under CC-BY-SA-3.0 should be relicensed to CC-BY-SA-4.0 when they are updated.

GLEP Formating and Template

GLEPs are UTF-8 encoded text files written in ReStructuredText markup [11] that is then converted to HTML using Docutils [12]. ReStructuredText allows for rich markup that is still quite easy to read, but also results in good-looking and functional HTML. GLEP 2 contains a boilerplate template [13] for use with ReStructuredText GLEPs.

For best interoperability, the GLEPs using ReStructuredText format must use .rst file suffix.

GLEP Header

Every GLEP has certain attributes associated with it. When a GLEP is sent to the mailing lists for discussion, it should begin with an RFC 2822 style header preamble between two triple-dashed lines. The headers must appear in the following order. For interoperability, the header preamble should also conform to the YAML standard [14]. Headers marked with "*" are optional. All other headers are required.

  GLEP: <glep number>
  Title: <glep title>
  Author: <list of authors' real names and optionally, email addrs>
  Type: <Informational | Standards Track>
  Status: <Draft | Active | Accepted | Deferred | Withdrawn | Rejected |
           Final | Replaced | Moribund>
  Version: <major>[.<minor>]
  Created: <date created on>
  Last-Modified: <date of last update>
  Post-History: <dates of postings to mailing lists>
  Content-Type: <text/x-rst>
* Requires: <glep numbers>
* Replaces: <glep numbers>
* Replaced-By: <glep number>

The Author header lists the names, and optionally the email addresses of all the authors/owners of the GLEP. Anybody who submits changes to the GLEP should be added to this field. The format of the Author header value must be

Random J. User <>

if the email address is included, and just

Random J. User

if the address is not given.

If there are multiple authors, each should be on a separate line following RFC 2822 continuation line conventions. The list of authors is comma-separated, i.e. all lines but the last must end with a comma.

The Type header specifies the type of GLEP: Informational or Standards Track.

The Version field specifies the current version of the GLEP. The Version consists of a major version, optionally followed by a minor version (if non-zero). Every GLEP starts at version 1 which is successively incremented as changes are merged to the GLEP.

The major version number should be incremented (and minor reset to zero) whenever the meaning of the GLEP changes. The minor version number should be incremented for changes that do not affect the basic meaning (e.g. clarifications, reference implementation updates). Editorial changes should be merged without increasing the version.

The Created header records the date that the GLEP was assigned a number, Last-Modified specifies the date that the GLEP was last updated in the master branch, while Post-History is used to record the dates of when new versions of the GLEP are posted to the appropriate mailing list. All three headers should be in ISO 8601 yyyy-mm-dd format, e.g. 2001-08-14, with the dates represented in UTC (Coordinated Universal Time).

The format of a GLEP is specified with a Content-Type header, which must be "text/x-rst" for ReStructuredText GLEPs (see GLEP 2 [13]).

GLEPs may have a Requires header, indicating the GLEP numbers that this GLEP depends on.

GLEPs may also have a Replaces header indicating that a GLEP is meant to replace one or more older GLEPs. Once such a GLEP is accepted, a matching Replaced-By should be added to all replaced GLEPs and their status should be updated to Replaced.

Reporting GLEP Bugs, or Submitting GLEP Updates

How you report a bug, or submit a GLEP update depends on several factors, such as the maturity of the GLEP, the preferences of the GLEP author, and the nature of your comments. For the early draft stages of the GLEP, it's probably best to send your comments and changes directly to the GLEP author or comment on the GLEP bug. For more mature, or finished GLEPs you may want to submit corrections to the Gentoo Linux bugzilla [7] under the "GLEP Changes" component of the "Documentation" product so that your changes don't get lost. Be sure to CC the GLEP author on the bug. When in doubt about where to send your changes, please check first with the GLEP author and/or GLEP editors.

GLEP authors must have a GLEP editor merge their changes to the master branch, as the write access is restricted to GLEP editors in order to protect the integrity of the GLEPs.

Any major updates to GLEPs (that is, those that change the content of the GLEP rather than just fixing typos or adding small clarifications) should be approved by the Gentoo Council before being merged.

Transferring GLEP Ownership

It occasionally becomes necessary to transfer ownership of GLEPs to a new champion. In general, we'd like to retain the original author as a co-author of the transferred GLEP, but that's really up to the original author. A good reason to transfer ownership is because the original author no longer has the time or interest in updating it or following through with the GLEP process, or has fallen off the face of the 'net (i.e. is unreachable or not responding to email). A bad reason to transfer ownership is because you don't agree with the direction of the GLEP. We try to build consensus around a GLEP, but if that's not possible, you can always submit a competing GLEP.

If you are interested in assuming ownership of a GLEP, send a message asking to take over, addressed to both the original author and the GLEP editors <>, or comment on the GLEP bug. If the original author doesn't respond to email in a timely manner, the GLEP editors will make a unilateral decision (it's not like such decisions can't be reversed :).