What are Editions?
Rust ships releases on a six-week cycle. This means that users get a constant stream of new features. This is much faster than updates for other languages, but this also means that each update is smaller. After a while, all of those tiny changes add up. But, from release to release, it can be hard to look back and say "Wow, between Rust 1.10 and Rust 1.20, Rust has changed a lot!"
Every two or three years, we'll be producing a new edition of Rust. Each edition brings together the features that have landed into a clear package, with fully updated documentation and tooling. New editions ship through the usual release process.
This serves different purposes for different people:
For active Rust users, it brings together incremental changes into an easy-to-understand package.
For non-users, it signals that some major advancements have landed, which might make Rust worth another look.
For those developing Rust itself, it provides a rallying point for the project as a whole.
When a new edition becomes available in the compiler, crates must explicitly opt in to it to take full advantage. This opt in enables editions to contain incompatible changes, like adding a new keyword that might conflict with identifiers in code, or turning warnings into errors. A Rust compiler will support all editions that existed prior to the compiler's release, and can link crates of any supported editions together. Edition changes only affect the way the compiler initially parses the code. Therefore, if you're using Rust 2015, and one of your dependencies uses Rust 2018, it all works just fine. The opposite situation works as well.
Just to be clear: most features will be available on all editions. People using any edition of Rust will continue to see improvements as new stable releases are made. In some cases however, mainly when new keywords are added, but sometimes for other reasons, there may be new features that are only available in later editions. You only need to upgrade if you want to take advantage of such features.
Trying out the 2018 edition
At the time of writing, there are two editions: 2015 and 2018. 2015 is today's Rust; Rust 2018 will ship later this year. To transition to the 2018 edition from the 2015 edition, you'll want to get started with the transition section.