The Role of Maintainers

Maintainers are a critical part of the project’s contributor ecosystem. They come from a wide range of backgrounds from unpaid hobbyists working in their spare time to employees who work on the project as part of their job. Maintainer activities include:

  • reviewing patches and suggesting changes

  • collecting patches and preparing pull requests

  • tending to the long term health of their area

  • participating in other project activities

They are also human and subject to the same pressures as everyone else including overload and burnout. Like everyone else they are subject to project’s Code of Conduct and should also be exemplars of excellent community collaborators.


The MAINTAINERS file contains the canonical list of who is a maintainer. The file is machine readable so an appropriately configured git (see CC the relevant maintainer) can automatically Cc them on patches that touch their area of code.

The file also describes the status of the area of code to give an idea of how actively that section is maintained.

Meaning of support status in MAINTAINERS




Someone is actually paid to look after this.


Someone actually looks after it.

Odd Fixes

It has a maintainer but they don’t have time to do much other than throw the odd patch in.


No current maintainer.


Old obsolete code, should use something else.

Please bear in mind that even if someone is paid to support something it does not mean they are paid to support you. This is open source and the code comes with no warranty and the project makes no guarantees about dealing with bugs or features requests.

Becoming a reviewer

Most maintainers start by becoming subsystem reviewers. While anyone is welcome to review code on the mailing list getting added to the MAINTAINERS file with a line like:

R: Random Hacker <>

marks you as a ‘designated reviewer’ - expected to provide regular spontaneous feedback. This will ensure that patches touching a given subsystem will automatically be CC’d to you.

Becoming a maintainer

Maintainers are volunteers who put themselves forward or have been asked by others to keep an eye on an area of code. They have generally demonstrated to the community, usually via contributions and code reviews, that they have a good understanding of the subsystem. They are also trusted to make a positive contribution to the project and work well with the other contributors.

The process is simple - simply send a patch to the list that updates the MAINTAINERS file. Sometimes this is done as part of a larger series when a new sub-system is being added to the code base. This can also be done by a retiring maintainer who nominates their replacement after discussion with other contributors.

Once the patch is reviewed and merged the only other step is to make sure your GPG key is signed.

Maintainer GPG Keys

GPG is used to sign pull requests so they can be identified as really coming from the maintainer. If your key is not already signed by members of the QEMU community, you should make arrangements to attend a KeySigningParty (for example at KVM Forum) or make alternative arrangements to have your key signed by an attendee. Key signing requires meeting another community member in person [1] so please make appropriate arrangements.