2 min read

Rapid Releases in Software

Today's software culture, especially in the Open-source world, seems to be about quick, rapid releases of software, whether it is stable or not. That's something I have mixed feelings about. It is really nice to be able to see the latest and greatest in development, but I've also seen companies and organizations get a bad name with unstable software that wasn't properly vetted.

There are two organizations I would like to highlight. Firstly, Opera has been doing something with their desktop team for a while, releasing development snapshots for the masses for a quite a while. It's quite nice, but they frequently contain very dangerous or harmful bugs, and some people don't seem to know the difference between development snapshots and the real stable releases of the software. So much so, that Opera has taken steps to brand the two different (Opera Next) in order to make sure that people know the difference.

Then take OpenBSD. They always provide snapshots of their software, but it's not that public, and honestly, it's not that necessary. Usually, folks following OpenBSD either run the latest snapshot or CVS, or they run the stable versions, but they don't normally run both in their machines. Remarkably, OpenBSD's CVS tends to be very stable most of the time, unlike Opera's Next releases. And then there are the frequent, consistent, regular six-month stable releases from the OpenBSD project.

As a third datapoint, take Bare Bones software on the Mac, I've rarely if ever seen them release a piece of software that wasn't remarkably stable, but then they started doing some pre-release versions on their mailing lists, and I was worried. Yes, some bugs were introduced during those times, but they are remarkably small changes, and overall, the software seems to have maintained its stability.

What's all this rambling for? Basically, I really value stable, working software, more so than I value rapid release points and new features. Am I in the complete minority here? I feel that some software groups make releases too fast just to make sure that they keep ahead of the times or stay in the news headlines. I can understand why this might make sense in some business plan, but if you decide to do that, surely you can keep stability a priority as well, right? There are companies that manage to do it, so I know it can be done; why do so many groups not prioritize traditional software values like stability these days?