Hardy and I have been musing about how to mark new API members (methods,
classes etc.) which are still incubating or experimental.

Of course we have Alpha, Beta releases etc. but there can be cases where it
makes sense to ship new functionality with a final release and still leave
the door open for refinements in the next release based on user feedback.

So basically we're looking for a way to inform the user and say "it's ok to
use this API, but be prepared to changes in the future". One way to do this
is documentation, i.e. prose or a custom JavaDoc tag such as @experimental.
This has been done in HSEARCH before.

Alternatively a Java 5 annotation could be used which I'd personally find
advantageous for the following reasons:

 * With an annotation, the generated JavaDoc gives you a list with all
incubating members out of the box, see e.g. the Guava docs for an example

* For an annotation we can provide proper documentation in form of JavaDoc,
i.e. the user of the API can inspect the docs of @Incubating from within
the IDE and learn about the rules behind it. For a tag, a user would only
see the specific comment of a given instance.

* An annotation is more tool friendly, e.g. a user could easily find all
references to @Incubating in her IDE or even write an annotation processor
or a custom CheckStyle rule issuing a build warning when using an
incubating member

Such an annotation would have a retention level of SOURCE similar to other
documenting annotations such as @Generated.

Any thoughts?


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