Use nixos-24.05 or release-24.05 branch for a stable 24.05 flake-based system?

It is not clear to me what’s the difference between the nixos-24.05 and release-24.05 branch, and which one should one use in the long term. release-24.05 seems to be fresher.

For 23.11 there are also a nixos-23.11 and a release-23.11 branch, both maintained and active. So it doesn’t seem that the release-xx.xx-branches are just to prepare the nixos-xx.xx branches in the release process.

So, which branch should I refer to in my flake.nix? Also, where is official documentation for that? The many branches of nixpkgs are a little overwhelming.

Is it correct to say that the nixos-xx.xx branches are primarily there for the Nix channels (nix-channel tool)? I guess some process for “proper channel releases” causes a delay, so release-24.05 is always fresher and the way to go for flake users / people who don’t require a Nix channel?

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You can find the description of the process involving these branches at Channel branches - NixOS Wiki. In short, changes to release-24.05 get some additional testing and land in nixos-24.05 when this channel is published. You probably want to use nixos-24.05.