Is Software Versioning Relevant Anymore

Before we get started, let’s lay down this first really big disclaimer: I do not have any formal software development training. What I’ve learned I’ve learned largely from Googling it, and applying some of that to my own development stuff in Excel and Access.

That out of the way, here’s my question of the day: is software versioning relevant anymore?

A little background on where this question came from: app updates in my iPhone. That’s right. I thought about this while scrolling through the app updates available on my iPhone.

(I don’t get out much.)

Like most everybody with a smartphone, I have a crapload of apps I’ve downloaded. Some I use all the time, some I use some of the time, some I downloaded with good intentions and have yet to go back to them, and some I deleted ten minutes after trying them out.

A couple I use pretty regularly are Cozi and Zillow. Cozi is a type of family organizer that shares data across members of the same family. My family uses it for grocery lists primarily. Zillow is a real estate listing app that’s been useful as we think about buying a new house in the next year or two.

One that I occasionally use is Spotify. I’m not a subscriber, so I’m not on it hardcore all the time.

All three came up recently for update in the App Store.

What does this have to do with versioning? Well, I’m one of those people that, when they see a new version of an app has been released, I actually expand the section to see just what has been done. Do I want to waste my bandwidth updating an app that hasn’t added anything I find valuable?

I was looking at these the other day, I noticed that the updates to Cozi and Zillow were very very minor. If you look up software versioning in Wikipedia, then what you’ll find is that Cozi and Zillow appear to be following your average everyday sequence-based identifier. The updates to both were in the revision number, which means not a major release (version 1), not a minor release (version 1.1), but a revision release (version 1.1.1).

Based on the Wikipedia article, a major version is for a major change or jump in functionality, a minor version is for a minor features or significant bug fixes, while a revision number release is generally used for really minor bugs.

What stuck me about the revision number of both. They were ridiculously high. The Zillow revision number is 602, while the 2611.

2611! Does that mean that the developers of Cozi have found, since the last minor version release, two thousand six hundred eleven bugs?? If so, it would appear to me that they have a HUGE problem with their QA department. Same with Zillow.

Now take Spotify. The Spotify mobile app has been around since April 2013. They are on version 0.8. The regular desktop app was launched in 2008. Currently (again, according to Wikipedia), the last stable release was 0.9.4.numbernumbernumber.

According to most software release cycles, this means that Spotify is still in the “beta” test stage, which means the developers have tested it, and it’s been distributed to a user community for additional testing and piloting. They have yet to button up a final released version.

Spotify has 20 million users.

“Beta”? Really??

Given these two observations led me to wonder to myself, and in this post, whether software versioning really matters anymore. This doesn’t even begin to tackle OS changes, Windows 8 versus 8.1, the odd dessert-based naming structure the Driod OS follows, or the big cat structure Mac OS was following.

Has software versioning become less about the quality control of releases and more about marketing? I think maybe it has…


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