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When looking at the latest updates published by a package maintainer I noticed that there was a recent update to a package despite the minor version not incrementing:

7.0.6-9+donate.sury.org~precise+2

The docs says that everything before ~precise+2 is the "upstream_version". +donate.sury.org is clearly the host of the upstream maintainer, 7.0.6 is the software release, but what is the -9 meant to signify?

I would assume it would be the 9th build of that version, but I'm unsure why you would have multiple builds of the same version.

What is it, and is it potentially important to ensure that production servers are kept up to date with it?

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    You slightly misread the docs: Everything before the - is the upstream_version (7.0.6, in this case). Everything after is the debian_revision (9+donate.sury.org~precise+2). - is allowed in upstream_version only if debian_revision is empty. In reality, only Ondřej can answer this question. He visits the site on occasion, so you will probably get an answer over the next few days. – muru May 17 '16 at 1:01