Today, with the technology development, the Web has changed the economics of software development and the Internet has also changed the way of the software developers on how they look at the traditional software development and delivery process. In 2005, the term “Web 2.0” was proposed by respected developers’ handbook publisher Tim O’Reilly and “perpetual beta” is one of the key design principles of Web 2.0.
Tim O’Reilly defines the concept of perpetual beta by stating that “there is never a definitive version and software remains under development and improvement as long as it exists. Following this concept, the software is commercialised before it is ‘feature complete’ or free of programming bugs, ‘developed in the open, with new features slipstreamed in on a monthly, weekly, or even daily basis’” (Efthymios C and Stefan J, 2007 ). In other words, in Web 2.0 era, software has become a service, which is always refound and improved continuously based upon customer feedback. Users become co-developers or real-time testers and make operations (24/7 ongoing daily care and feeding of online services) a core competency. This is a new way of thinking about software development and a new perspective on the software business.
Remember the Milk (RTM) was found by Emily Boyd and Omar Kilani and developed by an Australian/International team. The RTM is an application service provider for web-based task- and time-management (Wikipedia, 2010). In another words, RTM is a free online Web-based Cross-platform application (see Figure 1.0) which can help users to simplify and organize all their daily tasks in one place. Its beta version – Remember the Milk beta – was publicly launched in October 2005 (see Figure 2.0) and stayed in beta for 4 years until October 2009 (see Figure 3.o).
RTM allows users to create multiple tasks lists, manage their tasks, prioritize their tasks, and share their tasks with others from any computer as well as offline with Gears. It also integrates with various other products, web services and third parties such as Netvibes, iGoogle, Google Maps, Twitter, Jott and more. RTM’s users can also create categorized task lists, send out reminders via email, SMS, instant messenger (AIM, Gadu-Gadu, Google Talk, ICQ, Jabber, MSN, Skype and Yahoo! are all supported) and Twitter and even access it by mobile device and phone (iPhone/iPod touch, Android phone, BlackBarry and Windows Mobile).
In 2005, O’Reilly described the concept of perpetual beta as part of a customized Internet environment with these applications as distinguishing characteristics (Wikipedia, 2010):
- Release early and release often and continuously improved –
Microsoft was one the first companies to request users for a beta program (Diana, 2009). Afterward, many development organizations like Google adoped the same concept “the use of the “beta” tag on many “web 2.0″ products” to release their products/services such as GMail early to the market. RTM used the same concept to lanuch its application with the “beta” tag which means that Remember The Milk is a work-in-progress. RTM development team is still working to add new features (lanuching Pro Tester Program), developing other projects (Twitter and Jott integtation), improving services (Data center maintenance).
- User as a co-developers and real time testers –
Tim O’Reilly stated that “Real-world user behavior provides a much more accurate model for assessing new product features than marketing requirements documents, prototypes, or any other form of non-production feedback (Musser, 2006) .” In March 2008, the RTM development team decided to launch the Pro Tester Program (or PTP for short) to do testing on every browser and operating system combination and even every mobile device/portable device. PTP members will be given pre-release versions of new RTM features to and will be invited to provide feedback and help us by reporting any problems encountered with said new features (Remember the Milk, 2010). In February 2010, RTM development team has also did a Survey for the Mobile devices (see Figure 4.0) to help them to prioritize mobile development for 2010. Over 3,300 lovely Remember The Milk users were kind enough to provide their input (Remember the Milk, 2010). The RTM development team would also like users to send a suggestion/feedback to them directly, posted on the forums. Therefore, RTM could produce the service/feature which could always meet current customers’ needs and preferences.
Figure 4.0 : Survey – one of Graph Results – Mobile Devices
- Software above the level of a single device –
In the Web 2.0 world, Internet/Web 2.0 applications are not limited to a single device or a platform. They need to be worked everywhere. RTM is a Web 2.0 multi-platform application which can be run and can support different platforms including Windows, Mac, and Linux. As well it can be accessed by mobile devices and phones.
- Make operations a core competency –
The RTM development team loves to use low-cost/open source software to develop applications and to leverage large support communities and resources. They try to open source as much as possible. They also actively integrate users’ feedback into the the core product. For example, in February 2010 mobile survey, users chose “Improve the existing iPhone app” as your #1 mobile request. The RTM development team made improvements and released the latest version of the Remember The Milk app.
Figure 5.0 : Remove “Beta” Logo for Remember the Milk
Today, for Web 2.0 applications, the “beta” label is an iconic symbol which can be realized instantly and presented to the public as a beta-version. For RTM, “beta” label means that Remember the Milk is a work-in-progress (Remember the Milk, 2010). The RTM development team is still working to add features, and there might be a bug or two here and there. However, in October 2009, they decided to finally leave beta (see figure 5.0); because web applications (web apps) did not need to be in beta anymore to continue to evolve. (Remember the Milk, 2010)
In conclusion, Remember the Milk demonstrates the Web 2.0 principle of ‘Perpetual Beta’ which enables the softwares/applications continually to improve and continuous release processes allow users to instantaneously benefit (Toby Segaran, Colin Evans and Jamie Taylor, 2009). The perpetual beta has made operations as a core competency. It has also become a process for engaging customers or prospective customers.
Efthymios, C and Stefan, J. 2007. Web 2.0: Conceptual foundations and marketing issues.
Diana, R. 2009. Alpha: When Beta Is Not Good Enough.
Remember the Milk. 2010. Wikipedia.
Segaran, T, Evans, C and Taylor, J. 2009. Programming the Semantic Web – Perpetual Beta. p 17.
Musser, J. 2006. Web 2.0: Principles and Best Practices.