Tim O’Reilly mentioned Web 2.0 and perpetual beta referring to classic software release cycle is becoming too sluggish and self-focused for present company. Company must by no means stop to enhance their applications and services with aid from the community.
Software is not a product but a service and therefore company should improve their services constantly and new functionalities should be release every few weeks. A service that becomes outdated in the long run would not be welcome.
This gives a big competitive advantages to web application in which users do not have to download the new version to get the new functionality as it’s always available. Company would not have to maintain backward compatibility so no one which never run an obsolete version. In turn, users are more involved in development and new feature to be added will be suggested. Company should develop new features often and select those that have potential to be successful with regards to the community feedbacks. Both, Users and company can reach the service from anywhere.
However, “beta” seems to have misled some company given that the impression that they are allowed to build substandard web application services. There’s a big difference between releasing a beta service built with components and releasing beta architecture. The architecture of a service can be in Perpetual Beta, because users can provide important feedbacks and feature requests, and company should add and remove tools and services depending on the feedback and their interests. The Perpetual Beta is the way small puzzles piece up together, not the contrary.
Five years after its release, Gmail is still a beta application. Gmail continues to add significant features, but most of the interesting ideas are now in Gmail Labs: tasks, offline Gmail, sending SMS or adding iGoogle gadgets.
It makes sense to add experimental features in the Labs section and remove the “beta” label from Gmail’s logo. Felipe Zamorano, a reader of this blog, noticed that the Gmail logos created for some of the themes have two versions: one that includes “beta” and another one without “beta”.
Google has recently launched a Labs section for APIs and started to add deprecation policies for the APIs that graduated from Labs. “For these graduates, we’re increasing our commitment with published deprecation policies and other critical support services. The Visualization API terms, Contacts Data API terms, and Picasa Web Albums Data API terms include good examples of transparent deprecation policies. They state that we’ll support each version for at least 3 years from when it’s deprecated or a newer version is introduced.”
Maybe it’s time to show the same commitment for popular applications like Gmail or Google Calendar and drop the “beta” label.
Below is the introduction video of current gmail that is out of beta.