Web 2.0 – Perpetual Beta

Following on in this series of blogs, another part of the basic patterns of Web 2.0 identified by O’Reilly is “Perpetual beta”. According to O’Reilly, when it comes to Web 2.0, “the users must be treated as co-developers”, thus, “the product is developed in the open with new features slipstreamed in on a monthly, weekly or even daily basis.” While many proprietary software companies (Microsoft, Adobe, and Netscape) collect their releases/bug fixes and release them in one go, some Web 2.0 applications such as Flickr, deploy new build-ups up to every half hour . Warr (2008) points out the example of eBay, who “deploys a new version of its service approximately every two weeks.” Therefore, instead of scheduled releases, such services are constantly updated.

Similar to ‘Release early, Release often’ (RERO), the Internet has allowed for easy deployment, to release smaller and rapid releases, and the faster features get to users (real-time testers), the sooner the development team is provided with valuable feedback. Perpetual beta also captures the essence of a couple of my previous blogs, “Harnessing the Collective Intelligence” and “Software above the Level of a Single Device”. It is a way of testing and debugging software, however it is also for this reason it is not used on any mission critical (any machine that is essential to the core function of an organisation) machine. Versions no longer exist as there is perpetual beta development with timestamps instead.

Perpetual Beta – IMVU a social network and 3D virtual world

Apparently, IMVU rolls out fifty deployments each and every day, and they’re doing so by the magic of Continuous Deployment which sounds similar to perpetual beta.Eric Ries, the co-founding and serving CTO of IMVU, states this in his blog, “Continuous Deployment at IMVU” and “Continuous deployment in 5 easy steps“.

The IMVU homepage describes IMVU as “a social network and 3D virtual world where millions of people meet, chat and have fun in animated 3D scenes. You can shop and dress up your avatar with your own personalized look, design and decorate your own 3D space, and connect with new people from around the world.”

IMVU software is a free download and easy to use. You can shop and dress up in style, meet new people in 3D, create the experience you’ve always wanted by customizing and designing your space, and sell your own designs.  Additionally, pick your scene, furniture and accessories, and then invite other members to visit. At the time that I visited the site, there were 84,225 people currently online! Popular IMVU neighbourhoods include anime, fantasy, furry, goth, rock, romance, scifi, and (good heavens!) vampire. Here’s how it’s done…


IMVU homepage. Retrieved 13 May, 2010 from http://www.imvu.com/
Musser, J. and O’Reilly, T (2006). Web 2.0 Principles and Best Practices – Retrieved April 25, 2010, from http://radar.oreilly.com/research/web2-report.html
O’Reilly, T. (2005). What Is Web 2.0. Retrieved April 25, 2010, from http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/a/oreilly/tim/news/2005/09/30/what-is-web-20.html
Ries, E. (2009). Continuous Deployment in 5 Easy Steps. Retrieved May 13, 2010, from http://radar.oreilly.com/2009/03/continuous-deployment-5-eas.html
Secret Plans and Clever Tricks – Retrieved April 25, 2010, from http://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/chrismay/tag/flickr quoted in O’Reilly (above)
Warr, W.A. (2008). Social software: fun and games, or business tools? Journal of Information Science, 34 (4), 591-604. Retrieved April 25, 2010, from http://jis.sagepub.com/cgi/rapidpdf/0165551508092259v1.pdf
Wikipedia – mission critical – Retrieved April 25, 2010, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mission_critical
Wikipedia – Perpetual beta – Retrieved April 25, 2010, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perpetual_beta
Wikipedia –  RERO – Retrieved April 25, 2010, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Release_early,_release_often


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2 responses to “Web 2.0 – Perpetual Beta

  1. Good parallel between collective intelligence and the collection that user feedback to inform development.

    I did wonder if there is some in-congruence between 2 of your points – you point out that Flickr deploy new ‘build-ups’ every half hour but then also suggest that this type of deployment is not suitable for mission critical systems? Can these 2 things live together?

  2. Thank you for your comment, Joanne. I guess what I was implying is that when it comes to the ‘perpetual beta’ scenario, the users are definitely part of the development team. The initial ‘updates’ (as opposed to versions) are untested until the users have a chance to test/play/use it, and provide feedback.

    Would you use perpetual beta software on a mission critical system that would cost your organisation a few millions in revenue if it went down for just 24 hours? Heads would roll.

    At this stage, I don’t think mission critical and perpetual beta can live on the same system. They are like chalk and cheese. They have specific uses, though and are useful for those uses.

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