Today’s topic will cover “Perpetual Beta“. Perpetual Beta, commonly speaking, is a piece of software that is in constant development – although complete features and lack of bugs may be found, new features and consolidated scripts are continually being added. In fact, some people believe that agile software development (a commonly used practice that development teams utilize) promotes perpetual beta as “new features are slipped in every iteration“. Perpetual beta just happens to be one of Tim O’Rielly’s core patterns to Web 2.0 applications. Because it relies on a sort of symbiotic relationship between user and developer, I would say that this pattern has an element of Harnessing Collective Experience, combined with Rich User Experience and a dash of Innovation in Assembly.
For the sake for my topic today, I am going to talk about a well-known software platform that almost all of us are using, Facebook. Facebook, a well known and popular website, in fact utilizes perpetual beta. If you use Facebook, you will notice how you are never prompted to update the software, and yet new features are constantly being added. Only recently Facebook updated the image view section of their website to Ajax. Then there is Facebook’s many and varied attempts to change its look and feel. Some of these have been brought about by responses from the user. One notable and recent example was all those changes to the privacy settings. I believe this is a fine example of how perpetual beta works, because for a large part the changes were user driven. Few months ago Facebook has released a new feature which is Timeline which will lead the user to provide information about their past before even Facebook existed.
Some of us more veteran Facebook users may remember those nasty bugs such as the; multi-status, the chat session that crashed the system, and the missing status updates. I’m sure there are more. I am constantly getting status updates from one friend or another whining how their favourite game or application is not working. For the most part theses thing do get fixed, usually after someone (or one thousand) has complained to Facebook Help.
Facebook is continuing to release new versions, revisions or updates of their products based on users’ feedback which gives the developers the chance to see the user experience to improve the application easily. Here is the question to answer, Do you think Facebook needs improvements or releases new services? If not do you think Facebook should not be a beta anymore?
Facebook Privacy (2012) http://www.facebook.com/privacy/explanation.php
Wikipedia (2012) Perpetual Beta