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This article/section is a stub — probably a pile of half-sorted notes, is not well-checked so may have incorrect bits. (Feel free to ignore, fix, or tell me)

The 4.x are more current - functionally mostly the same as 3.x but fixed a number of 3.x flaws

the API and behaviour is so similar that most code can move from 3 to 4 with little to no changes.

The package naming can be interesting -- because it doesn't correspond to internal version.

The soname for 3.x has 4, the soname for 4.x has a 5,
so e.g. in debian/ubuntu, tiff 3 is package libtiff4, tiff 4 is in package libtiff5.

Confusing, yes.