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    Java SDK 5.x to 6.0 migration guide

    Read time: 7 minutes
    Last edited: Jan 03, 2023
    Contexts are for Early Access Program customers only

    A context is a generalized way of describing and referring to the people, services, machines, or other resources that encounter feature flags in your product.

    Creating contexts and evaluating flags based on contexts is the primary feature in the Java SDK 6.0 release. However, the ability to target flags or segments by context, or review context instances that have encountered flags in your application, is only available to members of LaunchDarkly's Early Access Program (EAP). To learn more or join the EAP, read Contexts.

    Overview

    This topic explains the changes in the Java SDK 6.0 release and how to adapt code that uses a 5.x version of the Java to use version 6.0 or later.

    Version 6.0 includes several breaking changes. Additionally, if you use the Relay Proxy, you must update your Relay Proxy to version 7.0 before you update your SDK to version 6.0. To learn more, read the Relay Proxy 7.0 release notes.

    Before you migrate to version 6.0, update to the latest 5.x version. Some of the changes that are mandatory in 6.0 were originally added in a 5.x version and made optional.

    If you update to the latest 5.x version, deprecation warnings appear in areas of your code that need to be changed for 6.0. You can update them at your own pace while still using 5.x, rather than migrating everything simultaneously. To learn more about updating to the latest 5.x version, visit the SDK's GitHub repository.

    Understanding contexts

    Many LaunchDarkly customers create targeting rules for feature flags based on a variety of different information, including attributes pertaining to users, organizations, devices, and more. In previous versions of the LaunchDarkly SDK, you could define this information in a user object, using a combination of built-in and custom attributes. Now you can define this information in a more structured way, using contexts.

    Each context has a required attribute called kind that describes the type of attributes it contains. You can also add other attributes. Attributes can be strings, booleans, numbers, arrays, or JSON objects.

    When you evaluate a feature flag within your application, the flag's targeting rules use information from one or more kinds of contexts. For example, you may know:

    • the username, first name, last name, and email address of a person, as part of a context with kind of "user"
    • the company, department, and location of an organization, as part of a context with kind of "organization"
    • the device, model, and operating system of an environment, as part of a context with kind of "device"

    This new version of the LaunchDarkly SDK requires you to evaluate feature flags using an evaluation context, which is an object containing one or more contexts.

    To learn more about contexts, read Contexts.

    Migrating from users to contexts

    The 6.0 version of this SDK lets you use contexts. When you migrate from version 5.x, replace every instance of a user with a context. If there are any instances you do not replace, the 6.0 version of the Java SDK will convert each LDUser parameter it receives to LDContext and call the LDContext-specific version of the method.

    LaunchDarkly assumes older versions of the SDK use user contexts

    A context always has a kind attribute. When older versions of the SDK send events to LaunchDarkly, LaunchDarkly will convert the users in those events to contexts with a kind of user.

    If a flag configuration specifies any context kinds other than user, older versions of the Java SDK will not evaluate the flag correctly. You must upgrade your SDK if you are going to use context kinds other than user in your flag configurations.

    The primary differences between working with users and working with contexts include the following:

    • Changes to flag evaluation: The methods for evaluating flags now require contexts, rather than users.
    • Create contexts, not users: Where you previously created users, now you must create contexts.
    • Changes to attributes: There are now fewer built-in attributes. You can still add as many custom attributes as you like, although the format has changed slightly. A flag's targeting rules can now address fields within a JSON object.
    • Changes to private attributes: You can mark specific attributes of a context as private, either across all contexts of any kind, or within a particular context or context kind.
    • Changes to alias events: The alias method has been removed.

    To learn more about upgrading to contexts, read Best practices for upgrading users to contexts.

    Understanding changes to flag evaluation

    The methods for evaluating flags and determining flag evaluation reasons have changed slightly. The 6.0 version of the SDK includes the following changes:

    • The variation and variationDetail methods now take a context, rather than a user, as a parameter. To learn more, read the following API docs:

    • The USER_NOT_SPECIFIED evaluation error code was previously defined as, the user object or user key was not provided. It has been redefined to mean that the context was not provided or was invalid.

    Here's how to evaluate a flag using a context:

    boolean value = client.boolVariation("flag-key-123abc", context, false);

    Understanding differences between users and contexts

    Where you previously created users, now you must create contexts.

    Here's how to construct a basic context, as compared with constructing a user:

    LDUser user = new LDUser("user-key-123abc");

    Here's how to construct a basic context, with a context kind of something other than "user":

    LDContext context1 = LDContext.create(ContextKind.of("organization"), "org-key-123abc");

    Here's how to construct a multi-context, which includes multiple context kinds:

    LDContext multiContext = LDContext.createMulti(
    LDContext.create("user-key-123abc"),
    LDContext.create(ContextKind.of("device"), "device-key-123abc")
    );

    Understanding changes to built-in and custom attributes

    This section describes the changes to built-in and custom attributes in the 6.0 version of the SDK.

    Working with built-in and custom attributes



    In previous SDK versions, the user object included several built-in attributes for describing the user. It also included optional custom attributes, which you could add to a custom object within the user object and then populate.

    In version 6.0, the only built-in attributes are are kind, key, name, and anonymous. Kind, key, and name are strings, and anonymous is a boolean.

    You can define additional attributes for a context by passing in a name and value for each. Additional attributes can be any JSON type, including boolean, number, string, array, or object.

    Here's how to construct a context with additional attributes, as compared with constructing a similar user:

    LDUser user = new LDUser.Builder("user-key-123abc")
    .name("Sandy")
    .email("sandy@example.com")
    .build();

    Referencing properties of an attribute object



    In previous versions of the SDK, if you set the value of a user's custom attribute to an object, you could not reference that object in evaluations. In version 6.0, if a context attribute's value is a JSON object, you can reference properties of that object as the attribute in the targeting rules for a flag or segment.

    Here's one way to add object attributes to a context:

    LDValue addressData = LDValue.buildObject()
    .put("street", "Main St")
    .put("city", "Springfield")
    .build();
    LDContext context = LDContext.builder("user-key-123abc")
    .set("address", addressData)
    .build();

    There are multiple ways you can construct attribute values. To learn more about additional methods, read LDValue.

    In your flag or segment targeting, use / as the delimiter to refer to specific object fields. For example, you can use /address/city in your targeting. To learn more, read Targeting with flags.

    Removing the secondary attribute



    In previous versions of the SDK, you could set the value of a user's secondary attribute, as an optional secondary key for a user. The SDK would incorporate this attribute into the variation bucket assignment hash.

    In version 6.0, the secondary attribute has been removed. If you were previously using this attribute as part of distinguishing percentage rollouts, that will no longer work for your users.

    Understanding changes to private attributes

    As in previous versions of the SDK, you can mark specific attributes of a context as private. This restricts the context data your application sends to LaunchDarkly, while still using that data for flag targeting.

    In version 6.0, there are two scopes for which you can mark attributes as private:

    • Across all contexts of any context kind. You might use this if you want to ensure that the SDK never sends an "email" attribute to LaunchDarkly, no matter whether it occurs in a user context, an organization context, or something else.
    • Within a particular context or context kind. You might use this if you want an "email" attribute to be private in a user context, but not in an organization context.

    In the first example, all attributes are marked private for all contexts. Only the context key and kind are sent to LaunchDarkly. In the second example, the "email" and "address" attributes are private for all contexts:

    LDConfig configWithAllAttributesPrivate = new LDConfig.Builder()
    .events(
    Components.sendEvents()
    .allAttributesPrivate(true)
    )
    .build();

    To learn more, read privateAttributes.

    Here's how to mark an attribute as private for a particular context:

    LDContext context = LDContext.builder("key")
    .name("Sandy")
    .set("email", "sandy@example.com")
    .privateAttributes("email")
    .build();

    For attributes that are objects, you can mark specific fields private, using the / delimiter followed by the attribute name, then the / delimiter followed by the JSON property within the value.

    For example, for the attribute "address": { "street": "Main St", "city": "Springfield" }, you could set just the /address/street as private.

    Understanding changes to alias events

    In previous versions of the SDK, multiple user objects could represent one person. For example, this could happen the first time a person logged in to your application. The person might be represented by an anonymous user before they logged in, and a different user after they logged in. You could associate these two LaunchDarkly users by sending an alias event in the SDK.

    With the introduction of contexts, the person in this scenario is represented by two different context kinds. For example, before they log in, they might be represented by a device context. After they log in, they might be represented by a multi-context, for example, by one context kind based on their device and simultaneously by another context kind based on their user information.

    The 6.0 version of the SDK removes the ability to send an alias event. If you currently alias users, you will need to remove this code when you migrate to version 6.0.

    If you want to continue associating two contexts with each other, you can use two different context kinds, and then identify a multi-context that includes both individual contexts when you want the association to occur.

    Here's how:

    LDContext context1 = LDContext.create("user-key-123abc");
    LDContext context2 = LDContext.create(ContextKind.of("device"), "device-key123abc");
    LDContext multiContext = LDContext.createMulti(context1, context2);
    client.identify(multiContext);

    To learn more, read ContextBuilder and ContextMultiBuilder.

    Understanding changes to configuration options

    In the 6.0 version of the SDK, several configuration options have changed:

    • The inlineUsersInEvents option has been removed.
    • The userKeysCapacity and userKeysFlushInterval options have been renamed contextKeysCapacity and contextKeysFlushInterval, respectively.

    To learn more, read EventProcessorBuilder.

    Understanding changes to logging

    Previously, the SDK had a required dependency on SLF4J. It allowed you to switch to a different logging destination such as System.err, but the default was to use SLF4J.

    In the 6.0 version of the SDK, there is no required dependency on SLF4J. If your application has its own dependency on SLF4J, so that the SLF4J classes are already in the classpath, the SDK will detect this and it will send log output to SLF4J by default, just as before. If your application does not have a dependency on SLF4J, the SDK will detect the absence of the SLF4J classes and it will send log output to System.err by default.

    This change is only relevant if you have been relying on the SDK's transitive dependency to make SLF4J available in the classpath. If you have been explicitly referencing SLF4J in your own build, the SDK's behavior is unchanged.

    Understanding changes to the package distribution

    Previously, every release of the Java SDK published three jar artifacts:

    • A default jar including all SDK components and bundled dependencies, except for SLF4J, which was treated as a regular dependency so the application could override the SLF4J version if necessary.
    • An alternate jar with the classifier all, which was the same as the default jar except that it also bundled the SLF4J classes.
    • An alternate jar with the classifier thin, which did not bundle any dependencies at all.

    The all jar has been removed because the SDK no longer has a dependency on SLF4J. To learn more, read Understanding changes to logging.

    Understanding what was deprecated

    All types and methods that were marked as deprecated in the last 5.x release have been removed from the 6.0 release. If you were using these with a recent version previously, you should already have received deprecation warnings at compile time, with suggestions about their recommended replacements.

    For a full list of deprecated types and methods, read the Deprecated API section of the 5.x SDK API documentation.