Merge Request Process

tl;dr

  • Release managers (and delegates like the security team) must review all merges made to release branches
  • Merge criteria become more strict as the stable release date approaches; use Chromium Dash's Branches page to understand which branches are active and what merges are acceptable for each branch
  • Ensure your change is safe to merge before initiating the merge review process unless it's time-sensitive
  • Use Chromium Issue Tracker's project queries to track your approved merges as well as your pending requests
  • Use Gerrit or git to land your merge only after it's been approved

Introduction

Chromium is a main-first development team; generally, all code should land on main then roll out to stable users only after the milestone containing the code is branched, stabilized and shipped to the stable channel (to learn more about the release cycle, click here). This is because merging (also known as cherry-picking) code to an older release branch introduces risk and costs time across the team. However, there are times when the benefits outweigh the costs and a merge might be appropriate, e.g. to fix a web platform regression, address a crash or patch a security vulnerability.

To ensure we make the right decisions, release managers leverage a merge review process to evaluate each request. They‘ll ask questions about the reason you would like to merge a change and the risk of the merge itself, and you’ll work together to make a judgement call on whether or not the merge should be approved or rejected.

Generally, merges follow these high-level steps:

  • Developers update bug with relevant details and request a merge by updating the Merge-Request field with the requested milestones, then wait for review.
  • Release managers and automation review and approve, reject, or ask questions about the merge within two business days.
  • Developers wait for review and, if approved, land the merge ASAP.

For details on each step, see below.

NOTE: Because security issues (identified with Type=Vulnerability) follow a more complex flow, you may simply mark security issues as Fixed in the Issue Tracker and automation will handle the remainder of the merge request process flow for you; simply process the merge if it is requested and approved.

Requesting a merge

Verifying eligibility and safety

Before requesting a merge, first ensure your change is a good merge candidate:

  • Ensure it meets the merge criteria (via Chromium Dash) of the branch(es) you'd like to merge to; merge criteria become more strict the older the branch is, more details on criteria below

  • Verify merging the change to an older branch would be safe, e.g. unlikely to introduce new regressions, no major merge conflicts, automated test coverage present, etc; chat with your TL for input if you're not sure

  • Confirm your change fixes the issue at hand, preferably by testing on and monitoring the canary channel for 24 hours post-release (see Chromium Dash to determine if your change has shipped)

    • You may skip this step if a release manager or security team member has told you that the merge is urgent, e.g. is actively blocking a release

Updating Chromium Issue Tracker

Next, update the bug (generally the bug being fixed by the merge) with the following information present and accurate:

  • Title and description clearly describing the bug being fixed

  • Priority (Priority), OS (OS) and target milestone(s) (Milestone) fields are set

  • Owner, generally the person requesting / performing the merge

  • Release block label if applicable (ReleaseBlock field*)

  • Issue status:

    • Fixed: You‘re confident the issue is fixed on main, e.g. you’ve locally built and tested the issue, no additional crash reports are generated after the fix was released, etc (most issues)
    • In Progress (Accepted): Diagnostic merges only, e.g. to merge code to track down the root cause of an issue that only exists on branch

Setting the Merge-Request field

Once you‘ve verified all the above, you’re ready to request a merge! Simply update the issue‘s Merge-Request field with the milestone(s) you’d like to merge to.

Monitoring merge requests

After you've updated the Merge-Request field, automation will evaluate your request and may either approve it, reject it, or pass it along to a release manager for manual evaluation; see here to learn more about this automation. If manual review is required, release managers strive to answer all merge requests within two business days, but extenuating circumstances may cause delays.

At this point, following along via bug comments sent by email will always keep you in the loop, but you can also use the following queries in the Issue Tracker to track your merges:

  • Approved and TBD merges: Merges that require your follow-up, either by landing the relevant merge (if approved) or determining whether or not a merge is actually required and if so, requesting it (if TBD)
  • Requested merges: Merges that are waiting for input from release managers or automation; feel free to ping bugs that sit in this queue for two business days (assuming you verified that the change was already deployed to canary ahead of requesting a merge)
  • Rejected and NA merges: Merges that were either rejected by release managers, or not applicable to be merged; generally, no action is needed for these items unless you disagree with a merge's rejection and wish to escalate
  • All merges: Includes every possible merge state, useful when wanting to find an item you considered for merging but can't recall the state it was last in.

For a description of each label used to track the merge process, see the appendix below.

Landing an approved merge

Once your merge has been approved for a given milestone (via the release manager or automation updating the Merge field with Approved-###), you have two options to land the merge:

  • Gerrit UI, easiest for clean cherry-picks or those requiring only minor changes
  • git, for more complex cherry-picks and / or when local verification may be beneficial

Regardless of which method you choose, please ensure you land your cherry-pick ASAP so that it can be included in the next release built from the branch; if you don't merge your cherry-pick soon after approval, it will eventually be rejected for merge.

Once the cherry-pick has landed, a bot will update the Merge field with Merged-### label and remove Approved-### if the commit references the issue. If for some reason the commit did not reference the issue, manually update the Merge field with *Merged-### and remove Approved-###.

Using Gerrit UI

Select the “...” button in the Gerrit UI, then choose “Cherry Pick”. When prompted for a branch, enter refs/branch-heads/####, where #### corresponds to the release branch you are merging to (available on Chromium Dash in the “Chromium” column).

Once the cherry-pick CL is prepared, you can bypass code review (but not OWNERS approval) within 14 days of the original change by adding the Rubber Stamper bot (rubber-stamper@appspot.gserviceaccount.com) as a reviewer. If the CL meets the Rubber Stamper criteria, the bot will vote Bot-Commit+1 to bypass code review. If the CL is marked Auto-Submit+1, the bot will also submit the CL to the CQ on your behalf.

Using git

The commands below should set up your environment to be able to successfully upload a cherry-pick to a release branch, where #### corresponds to the release branch you are merging to (available on Chromium Dash in the “Chromium” column):

$ gclient sync --with_branch_heads
$ git fetch
$ git checkout -b BRANCH_NAME refs/remotes/branch-heads/####
$ git cl upstream branch-heads/####
$ git cherry-pick -x COMMIT_HASH_MAIN
$ gclient sync

From here, your environment should be ready to adjust the change as required; use ninja to build and test your changes, and when ready upload for review:

$ git cl upload

Adjust the change description to omit the “Change-Id: ...” line from original patch, otherwise you may experience issues when uploading the change to Gerrit. Once complete, use Gerrit to initiate review and approval of the merge as TBR has been discontinued.

Other tips & tricks when merging with git via release branches: * Consider using multiple working directories when creating the release branch * Editing the change description to denote this is a merge (e.g. “Merge to release branch” at the top) will help reviewers distinguish between the cherry-pick and the original change

Merge automation

The Chrome team has built automation via Blintz, formerly known as Sheriffbot, to assist in several merge flows: security merge triage, general merge request triage, and preventing missed merges.

Security merge triage

Given the additional complexity inherent in security merges, the security team has built custom automation to handle this flow end to end; simply mark any security issue as Fixed and Sheriffbot will evaluate applicable milestones, determine if merges are required and automatically request them if need be.

Merge request triage

To reduce release manager toil, Sheriffbot performs the first pass review of all merge requests; it may auto-approve the issue if it can detect the issue meets the right criteria for the current merge phase (e.g. a ReleaseBlock-Dev issue requesting a merge before beta promotion), and it may auto-reject the issue similarly (e.g. a P3 issue requesting a merge post-stable). If it cannot decide, it will pass the issue to a release manager for manual review.

Generally, Sheriffbot takes action on merge requests only after one of the two conditions below are met:

  • One or more changelists (via Gitwatcher) are present on the merge request issue, and all changes have been landed for >= 24 hours
  • No changelists are present on the merge request issue, and the merge request label has been applied for >= 24 hours

These conditions help ensure any relevant changelists have had sufficient runtime in our canary channel and thus are low risk for introducing a new regression onto our release branch.

Preventing missed merges

To avoid the situation where a critical issue is present on a release branch but the fix isn‘t merged, Sheriffbot evaluates all release-blocking issues targeting a milestone that has already branched and updates the Merge field with TBD-## if the issue was marked as fixed after branch day but hasn’t been merged. When this occurs, developers should evaluate the issue and either request a merge if required (e.g. the fix did miss the release branch point) by updating the Merge-Request field, or update the Merge field with NA-### (e.g. the fix is present in the release branch already or the merge is unnecessary for other reasons).

Appendix

Merge criteria phases

The table below describes the different phases that each milestone progresses through during its release cycle; this data is available via the Chromium Dash front-end and API.

Branch PhasePeriod BeginsPeriod EndsAcceptable Merges Include Fixes For:
betaM(X) BranchM(X) Stable CutNon-functional issues for Finch-gated features (e.g. add metrics, fix crash), noticeable new regressions, any release blockers, any security issues, emergency string issues (.GRD changes)
stableM(X) Stable CutM(X+1) StableUrgent new regressions (especially user reports), urgent release blockers, important security issues (medium severity or higher) requested by the security team
extended (if applicable)M(X+1) StableM(X+2) StableImportant security issues (medium severity or higher) applicable to any platform supported by Chrome Browser requested by the security team

Merge states and labels

The table below describes the different merge states applied via a bug's metadata fields. All merge states follow the form [State]-###, where ### corresponds to the applicable milestone. If multiple merges are required, these labels may appear multiple times on the same bug in different states (e.g. a merge request could have both Approved-102 and Rejected-103 at the same time).

FieldValueStep OwnerNext Steps
Merge-Request###Release managerAutomation will review and either approve / reject directly, or pass the review to a release manager for manual evaluation
MergeReview-###Release managerRelease manager will evaluate and either approve, reject, or request additional information within two business days
MergeApproved-###Issue ownerIssue owner should cherry-pick the fix to the appropriate release branch ASAP
MergeMerged-###NoneN/A; merge has already been landed, no further work required for given milestone
MergeRejected-###Issue ownerIssue owner should re-request a merge to escalate if they feel the merge was erroneously rejected and should be re-evaluated
MergeTBD-###Issue ownerIssue owner should evaluate if a merge is required, then remove TBD-## and replace it with NA-## (if no merge needed) or re-request a merge (if needed)
MergeNA-###NoneN/A; merge is not required to the relevant milestone, no further work required for given milestone