As InnoDB evolves, new on-disk data structures are sometimes required to support new features. The InnoDB storage engine introduces two such new data structures: compressed tables (see Chapter 3, InnoDB Data Compression), and long variable-length columns stored off-page (see Chapter 5, Storage of Variable-Length Columns). These new data structures are not compatible with prior versions of InnoDB. Note that the other new features of the InnoDB storage engine do not require the use of the new file format.
In general, a newer version of InnoDB may create a table or index that cannot safely be read or written with a prior version of InnoDB without risk of crashes, hangs, wrong results or corruptions. The InnoDB storage engine introduces a new mechanism to guard against these conditions, and to help preserve compatibility among database files and versions of InnoDB. This mechanism lets you take advantage of some new features of an InnoDB release (such as performance improvements and bug fixes), and still preserve the option of using your database with a prior version of InnoDB, by preventing accidental use of new features that create downward-incompatible disk files.
This is the User’s Guide for InnoDB storage engine 1.1 for MySQL 5.5, generated on 2010-04-13 (revision: 19994) .