Last Updated: April 05, 2024
Trunk-based Development
Published On: April 08, 2024

Blog Summary: This blog unpacks the trending software development methodology, Trunk Based Development (TBD). From the TBD process to an extensive comparison with Gitflow, use cases, advantages, and possible challenges, you will learn everything about this agile software development approach.

At present, a wide range of development methods are available. These include agile to lean development and the Agile Unified Process. However, all the techniques have pros and cons. One such methodology is Trunk Based Development.

The term trunk based development (an agile-inspired development approach) originated when developers used version control systems and agile techniques. Git, a distributed version control system, gave rise to the trunk technique. 

With trunk based development, software is continuously delivered, much like agile. By adopting this approach in your software development lifecycle, you can streamline the process, accelerate delivery timelines, and bring your product to market faster.

What is Trunk Based Development?

Trunk based development is one of the software development methodologies that frequently merges small code variations with the core trunk in the VCS. Additionally, it is known as the mainline or feature branch.

The DevOps team commonly utilizes this practice and considers it part of their lifecycle. The trunk approach simplifies the merging and integration stages. Engaging in trunk based development simplifies meeting the “every team member commits to trunk at least every 24 hours” prerequisite.

It allows for continuous integration and lays the groundwork for a codebase ready for release at any given moment—a necessity for both continuous delivery (CI) and continuous deployment (CD).

Trunk Based Development Workflow: The Secret to Agile Development

In the trunk based development technique, the programmers collaborate on a separate master branch with public access. They consign code and execute it quite easily.

Sometimes, developers form multiple temporary branches. If the code on short-lived branches is compiled and passes all the quality tests, they integrate it into the master branch. This guarantees continuous development and prevents software developers from generating hard-to-resolve merge-related issues.

Workflow of Trunk-based Development

The only way to test code in such a methodology is to perform an entire source code review. All developers have the right to modify the source code freely, but it is advisable to maintain a feasible coding style in such cases. In addition, some more experienced developers prefer to keep the codebase quality the same.

Operational activities would be outstanding when working with experienced developers, as they can seamlessly implement new features. This also increases credibility when introducing the code into the feature branch. 

Developers separately handle this workflow, and they can directly deliver and check the product’s result. Additionally, this approach reduces micromanagement and minimizes the potential for office politics.

Alternatively, opt for this approach only if you have an experienced development team. You can also hire experienced software product developers who can save you considerably on development costs.

Gitflow vs. Trunk Based Development

Gitflow is an alternative to the trunk based approach. It eliminates unnecessary concerns and ensures a smoother workflow. It uses more long-lived feature branches.

Moreover, in Gitflow, developers merge the feature only when it is completely ready to integrate into the main branch. This approach requires enhanced collaboration because it creates a greater risk of deviating from the trunk branch.

Gitflow utilizes different feature branches for development, new features, updates, and bug fixes. The merging process in Gitflow involves distinct methods, as there are multiple branches. It can become complex and demand additional planning and quality analysis from the team.

On the contrary, Trunk based development is much more streamlined since it emphasizes the core trunk. Here, the mainline is kept more consistent, error-free, and always ready for deployment.

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What are the Advantages of Trunk Based Development?

Trunk based development offers faster feedback loops and easier codebases as it frequently merges small changes into a single branch. Here are several advantages of trunk based approach that enhance the entire development technique:

1. Ongoing Code Integration

Trunk based development focuses on continuous code integration. The development team regularly integrates small updates into the feature branch. This frequent update on the mainline guarantees that the development process is streamlined. There is little or no risk of complex merge issues, and it also allows the developers to detect errors earlier.

2. Effective Teamwork

The shared trunk or branch allows developers to work together efficiently. In this practice, various developers work on different features concurrently. Developers can also regularly learn from each other’s approaches and share knowledge as they work on the same codebase, improving their coding expertise.

3. Quick Feedback and Code Correction

The trunk approach frequently merges code, making it easier than ever to identify and address primary issues in the code. The developers then make small progressive changes rapidly.

This progressive strategy expedites user feedback implementation. Thus, it also reduces the possibility of effort going in vain and implementing features that might not agree with the user’s perspective.

4. Lower Code Difficulty

long-lived feature branches can result in crucial code discrepancies. However, trunk based development maintains the main branch and occasionally eliminates temporary branches.

5. Enables Fast-paced Release

Trunk practice considerably lessens the time required to develop and deploy. Hence, it empowers the rapid launch of new features and reduces the risk of lapses. It sustains an ongoing delivery technique, which ultimately helps businesses carry out additional releases and swiftly answer as per the market requirements.

6. Enhanced Code Quality and Consistency

The trunk approach constantly updates the code in the feature branch, which allows it to identify underlying errors sooner. This technique also encourages development teams to create straightforward, separate code modifications to verify for quality assurance. 

For this reason, focusing on code quality is significant in a trunk based approach. It makes the codebase easier to maintain in the long run. Now that you’ve seen the advantages of trunk based development, let’s explore the core principles that make it work.

What are the Principles of Trunk Based Development?

Do you know that several software development principles must be followed while working in a systematic flow? It is essential to consider the principles mentioned below for trunk based development:

1. Main Branch Is The Sole Authoritative Source

Codebases are most reliable when they originate from the main trunk branch, also called the trunk or mainline. By following this practice, developers are able to maintain stability and stay up-to-date by regularly integrating changes into the mainline.

2. Continuous Integration

Developers follow this principle by integrating their code changes throughout the day into the mainline. Continuous integration allows them to detect and resolve integration issues, reducing the time spent on separate branches.

3. Minor Modifications

Code is modified in small, self-contained steps. By decomposing the work into smaller pieces, complexity is reduced, conflicts are minimized, and integration and review can be accomplished more quickly.

4. Feature Toggles

Developers can use the feature toggles to split up the code deployments and launch the new features. This enables progressive delivery of code functionality, testing, and seamless rollback whenever required.

5. Frequent Trunk Stability

It’s a good practice to regularly stabilize the main branch and keep it in an appropriate condition. Development teams meticulously distribute allotted time to address integration errors and settle all the potential bugs.

6. Regular Testing

Frequent unit and integration testing is carried out with the utmost precision. Trunk based development model allows teams to determine and fix functional defects and consistency issues instantly.

Using the above trunk based development principles and practices, developers can launch premium products quickly. This enables us to meet customers’ evolving demands, foster teamwork, and ensure efficient feedback cycles.

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Use Cases of Trunk Based Development

Do you still think the trunk based development model isn’t accepted? That’s not the case. Below is a list of organizations embracing this development methodology.

1. Google

Google prioritizes a trunk based development approach. This helps them release updates quickly and innovate faster by streamlining their development process.

As Google has a huge codebase and multiple developers, it mainly focuses on integrating small code modifications into the trunk. This allows Google to release product upgrades frequently while sustaining a flexible and authentic infrastructure.

2. Facebook

Facebook developers collaborate to integrate self-contained changes continuously into the trunk branch. This approach consistently improves their platform, allows for trial and error to add features, and retains optimal performance.

3. Spotify

Spotify also uses a trunk based development model. It is common for Spotify teams to create short-lived feature branches and frequently merge changes into the main system. Thus, Spotify is able to continuously add new features and enhancements to its platform, respond to user feedback quickly, and remain innovative.

Possible Difficulties of Trunk Based Development Approach

When you select the trunk approach, the development team might face inevitable challenges. Below is a detailed explanation of the possible challenges:

1. Test Scope & Quality Analysis

The development team is required to undertake a full testing procedure, including the integration, regression, and unit testing, to examine the code quality adequately. To provide a resolution, you must practice investing in automated testing structures, setting up QA methods, and frequently maintaining the repository.

2. Contradictions in the Code

Putting together code from multiple developers in the same area can cause conflicts. Teams can avoid such conflicts by establishing clear communication channels and conducting regular code reviews.

3. Developer Communication and Coordination

As trunk based development requires frequent integration, developers need powerful communication and coordination. All team members should be aware of the changes made in the main branch by other members. They can create code review guidelines, hold brief meetings on a routine basis, and utilize tools for efficient team communication.

4. Managing Feature Toggles

Executing different feature configurations requires complex management. Developers must perform vigorous toggle management to ensure appropriate implementation and maintenance.

Wrap Up!

Trunk based development may have a few challenges, but it still helps deliver agile, quick, and superior product delivery. This methodology helps swiftly respond to ever-evolving market demands and sustain an easy-to-handle codebase. It’s a modern approach to development techniques that efficiently enable teamwork.

Are you looking for an agile software development team that understands project requisites and implements agile development strategies? We at Moon Technolabs provide extensive software product development services with a cross-functional team that can take on your project quickly and efficiently.


Version Control Systems (VCS) are software tools that help software teams oversee and track all modifications in the source code. They act as a time machine for your development projects, enabling you to see the change history, revert the file to the previous state, track progress, and detect errors.

The branch in version control is a separate copy of the main source code. It is used in case of a new feature, bug fixes, and experiments. Branching benefits coders by allowing them to make amendments without impacting the source code. So, it differentiates the ongoing work from the already tested code line.

Code branching comprises creating an alternate copy of the original code to experiment with new features, change logs, code updates, or errors without affecting the codebase. Merging means combining the changes from the branch back into the master branch. It also resolves any conflicts that may occur.

No. GitHub flow & trunk based development are both different. While both utilize temporary feature branches, the trunk approach focuses on frequent integration into the leading branch. This is because it aims for a continuous deployment. You can check which methodology ideally matches your project.
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Jayanti Katariya

Jayanti Katariya is the CEO of Moon Technolabs, a fast-growing IT solutions provider, with 18+ years of experience in the industry. Passionate about developing creative apps from a young age, he pursued an engineering degree to further this interest. Under his leadership, Moon Technolabs has helped numerous brands establish their online presence and he has also launched an invoicing software that assists businesses to streamline their financial operations.

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