Go modules


A module is a collection of related go packages. Modules are the unit of source code interchange and versionning.

§Quick history

  • Go before 1.5: populating GOPATH with go get.
  • Go 1.5 and after: dependency vendoring is introduced.
  • vgo is proposed as a prototype for Go modules support.
  • Go 1.11 (beta): vgo is being merged and refined as go mod (experimental).


This article refers to recurrent expressions. Let’s clarify them:

  • “Module root”: the directory containing the file named go.mod.
  • “Module path”: the import path prefix corresponding to the module root.
  • “Main module”: the module containing the directory where the go command is run.

§Module structure

A module is a tree of Go source files to which is added a file named go.mod. It contains the module import name, and the declaration of dependency requirements, exclusions and replacements. Its content would look like this:

module my/thing
require (
        one/thing v1.3.2
        other/thing v2.5.0 // indirect

exclude (
        bad/thing v0.7.3

replace (
        src/thing 1.0.2 => dst/thing v1.1.0

Note that a dependency not directly imported in the module’s source code by an import statement is indentified as indirect in the file.

A module can contain other modules, in which case their content is excluded from the parent module.

Alongside go.mod, a file named go.sum may be present. This file retains cryptographic cheksums of module dependencies, if any. It is used to verify that cached dependencies meet module requirements.

A module root can reside anywhere on the filesystem, whatever is the current GOPATH.

§Module dependencies

Dependencies are downloaded and stored in GOPATH/src/mod. A direct consequence is that the use of a vendor directory is now obsolete.

What does this new structure looks like? Suppose we are working on a module that depends on github.com/me/lib at version 1.0.0. For such a case, in GOPATH/src/mod we would find:

What we can observe is:

  • Dependencies source trees are placed at the root of this directory, with a slight change: the import path is suffixed with @version.
  • Source archives retrieved or built from VCS are stored in the download folder.
  • VCS data is stored in the vcs folder.

§Enabling Go modules support

In Go 1.11beta2, the environment variable GO111MODULE controls whether module support is enabled or disabled. It accepts three values: on, off, auto (default).

If set to “on”, module support is enabled whatever path we are in.

If set to “off”, it is permanently disabled.

If unset or set to “auto”, module support is enabled outside of GOPATH only if the current directory is a module root or one of its subdirectories.


Go modules are integrated with Go tools, for instance upon invocation of commands such as go build, go install, go run, go test appropriate actions will fire up like populating the cache, creating or updating go.mod and go.sum etc.


You should never have to run these commands on your own since they are invoked by other commands, but for the sake of completeness, let’s mention that go mod -fmt is the equivalent of go fmt for go.mod and go.sum files and that go mod -fix do some smart things in order to keep go.mod clean, like:

  • Rewriting non-canonical version identifiers to semantic versioning form.
  • Removing duplicates.
  • Updating requirements to reflect exclusions.


To create go.mod:

go mod -init

You may have to pass the command an import path with -module <path> if the module root lives outside a VCS.

For the sake of backward compatibility and in order to ease the transition process, module creation has support for popular dependency management tools like dep, glide, glock, godep and so on.


In order to clean up unused dependencies or to fetch new ones, use the sync option:

go mod -sync

§Adding, excluding and replacing dependencies

Two possibilities: either edit go.mod by hand or use the CLI. The latter comes with the following commands:

# require a new dependency
go mod -require one/thing@version

# drop a requirement
go mod -droprequire one/thing

# exclude a dependency
go mod -exclude bad/thing@version

# drop an exclusion
go mod -dropexclude bad/thing@version

# replace a dependency
go mod -replace src/thing@version=dst/thing@version

# drop a replacement
go mod -dropreplace src/thing@version

§Dependency graph

To print the graph of module dependencies:

go mod -graph

§Generating vendor

If for backward compatibility reasons you need to ship your application with vendoring, you can generate the vendor directory from go.mod thanks to:

go mod -vendor

§Getting help

Don’t hesistate to refer to go help mod and go help modules for further details about Go module support!

(Note: This article’s original links is here )

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