The wharf specification

Wharf is a protocol that enables incremental uploads and downloads to keep software up-to-date. It includes:

  • A diffing and patching algorithm, based on rsync
  • An open file format specification for patches and signature files, based on protobuf
  • A reference implementation in Go
  • A command-line tool with several commands


Good specifications are easy to read, practical guidelines that make it easier for software to be interoperable. This book aims to be a good specification.

Its intended audience includes:

  • People who want to understand the tenets of's software delivery system, to judge its worth / audit it.
  • People who want to write their own, spec-compatible implementation of the protocol
  • People who want to use's implementation of wharf, but with their own backend.

No spec is perfect, but it is the author's hope that, together with the community, a solid spec can be achieved and yield numerous highly-compatible implementations.

The latest version of this book is available at:

Contributions can be made to it by submitting pull requests or issues on its GitHub repository:


Except when otherwise noted, this specification has been written by Amos Wenger

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