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Datasets versioning


Every DatasetBuilder defined in TFDS comes with a version, for example:

class MNIST(tfds.core.GeneratorBasedBuilder):
  VERSION = tfds.core.Version("1.0.0")

The version follows Semantic Versioning 2.0.0: MAJOR.MINOR.PATCH. The purpose of the version is to be able to guarantee reproducibility: loading a given dataset at a fixed version yields the same data. More specifically:

  • If PATCH version is incremented, data as read by the client is the same, although data might be serialized differently on disk, or the metadata might have changed. For any given slice, the slicing API returns the same set of records.
  • If MINOR version is incremented, existing data as read by the client is the same, but there is additional data (features in each record). For any given slice, the slicing API returns the same set of records.
  • If MAJOR version is incremented, the existing data has been changed and/or the slicing API doesn't necessarily return the same set of records for a given slice.

When a code change is made to the TFDS library and that code change impacts the way a dataset is being serialized and/or read by the client, then the corresponding builder version is incremented according to the above guidelines.

Note that the above semantic is best effort, and there might be un-noticed bugs impacting a dataset while the version was not incremented. Such bugs are eventually fixed, but if you heavily rely on the versioning, we advise you to use TFDS from a released version (as opposed to HEAD).

Also note that some datasets have another versioning scheme independent from the TFDS version. For example, the Open Images dataset has several versions, and in TFDS, the corresponding builders are open_images_v4, open_images_v5, ...

Supported versions

A DatasetBuilder can support several versions, which can be both higher or lower than the canonical version. For example:

class Imagenet2012(tfds.core.GeneratorBasedBuilder):
  VERSION = tfds.core.Version('2.0.1', 'Encoding fix. No changes from user POV')
      tfds.core.Version('3.0.0', 'S3:'),
      tfds.core.Version('0.0.9', tfds_version_to_prepare="v1.0.0"),

The choice to continue supporting an older version is done on a case-by-case basis, mainly based on the popularity of the dataset and version. Eventually, we aim at only supporting a limited number versions per dataset, ideally one. In the above example, we can see that version 2.0.0 is not supported anymore, as identical to 2.0.1 from a reader perspective.

Supported versions with a higher number than the canonical version number are considered experimental and might be broken. They will however eventually be made canonical.

A version can specify tfds_version_to_prepare. This means this dataset version can only be used with current version of TFDS code if it has already been prepared by an older version of the code, but cannot be prepared. The value of tfds_version_to_prepare specifies the last known version of TFDS which can be used to download and prepare the dataset at this version.

Loading a specific version

When loading a dataset or a DatasetBuilder, you can specify the version to use. For example:


tfds.load('imagenet2012:2.0.0')  # Error: unsupported version.

# Resolves to 3.0.0 for now, but would resolve to 3.1.1 if when added.

If using TFDS for a publication, we advise you to:

  • fix the MAJOR component of the version only;
  • advertise which version of the dataset was used in your results.

Doing so should make it easier for your future self, your readers and reviewers to reproduce your results.


To gradually roll out changes in TFDS which are impacting many dataset builders, we introduced the notion of experiments. When first introduced, an experiment is disabled by default, but specific dataset versions can decide to enable it. This will typically be done on "future" versions (not made canonical yet) at first. For example:

class MNIST(tfds.core.GeneratorBasedBuilder):
  VERSION = tfds.core.Version("1.0.0")
      tfds.core.Version("2.0.0", "EXP1: Opt-in for experiment 1",
                        experiments={tfds.core.Experiment.EXP1: True}),

Once an experiment has been verified to work as expected, it will be extended to all or most datasets, at which point it can be enabled by default, and the above definition would then look like:

class MNIST(tfds.core.GeneratorBasedBuilder):
  VERSION = tfds.core.Version("1.0.0",
                              experiments={tfds.core.Experiment.EXP1: False})
      tfds.core.Version("2.0.0", "EXP1: Opt-in for experiment 1"),

Once an experiment is used across all datasets versions (there is no dataset version left specifying {experiment: False}), the experiment can be deleted.

Experiments and their description are defined in core/utils/

BUILDER_CONFIGS and versions

Some datasets define several BUILDER_CONFIGS. When that is the case, version and supported_versions are defined on the config objects themselves. Other than that, semantics and usage are identical. For example:

class OpenImagesV4(tfds.core.GeneratorBasedBuilder):

            tfds.core.Version('1.0.0', "Major change in data"),
          description='Images at their original resolution and quality.'),