Trunk-Based Development: The Simple Approach to Faster, More Reliable Code

The Problem with Traditional Branching

Traditional branching has been a staple in the software development industry for years. However, it can be time-consuming, prone to errors, and lead to delays in getting feedback from customers. With multiple branches in development at any given time, it’s difficult to keep track of which version of the code is the most up-to-date. Plus, merging branches can often result in conflicts that can be hard to resolve.

Introducing Trunk-Based Development

Trunk-based development is a version control technique that aims to simplify the development process by having all developers commit changes to a single branch, known as the trunk. By committing frequently, developers can work collaboratively and ensure that the codebase is always up-to-date. This approach encourages faster feedback loops, and it allows developers to identify and resolve issues more quickly.

Benefits of Trunk-Based Development

There are many benefits to trunk-based development, including:

Faster feedback loops: Because changes are committed frequently, it’s easier to catch errors and receive feedback from customers in real-time. Improved collaboration: When all developers are working on the same branch, they can easily see what others are working on and collaborate more effectively. Easier maintenance: With a single codebase, it’s easier to identify and resolve issues, and there are fewer conflicts to manage. More reliable code: By committing changes frequently, developers can catch errors early, reducing the risk of introducing bugs into the codebase.

Scaled Trunk-Based Development

For large, complex software projects with multiple teams, the concept of Scaled Trunk-Based Development (STBD) can be used. This involves creating a shared codebase or trunk that multiple teams can work on simultaneously. To make STBD work effectively, short-lived feature branches are used. Each developer or team working on a particular feature or component of the codebase creates a short-lived feature branch that they work on for a few days at most. During this time, they can commit changes to the feature branch and collaborate with others to ensure that their changes are well-tested and integrated with the rest of the codebase.

Implementing Trunk-Based Development

Implementing trunk-based development, including STBD, requires a cultural shift within a development team. It’s important to establish clear guidelines and expectations for how developers will work collaboratively. This can involve adopting practices like pair programming, code reviews, and automated testing to ensure that changes are thoroughly tested before they’re committed to the trunk.

Real-World Examples

Many companies have successfully adopted trunk-based development, including Google, Amazon, and Facebook. These companies have reported increased productivity, faster feedback loops, and improved code quality as a result of adopting this approach.


Trunk-based development is a simple yet effective approach to software development that can help teams to work more collaboratively, catch errors earlier, and deliver more reliable code. By committing changes frequently to a shared codebase, developers can work more efficiently and effectively, leading to better outcomes for both the development team and the end user. For larger projects, Scaled Trunk-Based Development with short-lived feature branches can be a useful extension to the technique.