Vendoring packages

This is an old way of resolving package that was used before Go invented so called “gomodules”.

If you’re looking for how to import packages in your .go files, you should instead read about Ways of importing Go packages#. This is about how different versions of packages are referenced.

You can easily spot if a package uses the newer gomodules or the older vendoring techniques by looking for:

  • vendor directory → uses vendoring
  • go.mod/go.sum files → uses gomodules

Why was it needed?

Vendoring was invented by the community as a convention of how to deal with packages with different versions.

For example, consider the following package dependency graph:

toppkg 1.0
  - utilpkg 2.0
  - webserver 1.0
    - httputil 2.3
      - utilpkg 1.0

The package utilpkg is referenced twice, and in the current state of the graph it references two distinct major versions of that package. There could very well have been some really backward incompatible changes between version 1.0 and 2.0.

The way Go resolved these packages in the olden days was to just use the highest version available. This means that the above example dependency chain might now compile because the way toppkg and httputil used utilpkg differed too much when the httputil package all of the sudden has to compile against utilpkg 2.0.

Solution: Embed your dependencies

To solve this, the solution that appeared was to just embed the version you depended on inside your own repository.

This was mainly done through either copy paste, or Git submodules.

When the Go compiler tries to fetch packages, it first checks if the given package exists under ./vendor/${package-name}/.

Example package structure:


This way, both versions of the utilpkg exists in the tree when Go needs to compile them.

Is this still relevant?

To a degree. It’s not used anymore as gomodules fully supports dealing with multiple different-versioned packages in a dependency chain.

But as gomodules still is somewhat of a new invention, it’s still used by some big packages out there in the OSS world.

Can I mix vendoring and gomodules?

No. Not inside the same project. Either your project references packages as modules, or references vendored projects.

Your dependency chain can however mix and match between vendoring and gomodules.

For example, you reference utilpkg and webserver via gomodules, and then webserver still uses vendoring to reference utilpkg.

A single project can only either use vendoring or modules.