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Does Agile Promote Perpetual Beta?

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Agile software development promotes teamwork, collaboration, and process adaptability throughout the life-cycle of the project. More often than not, this also leads to a lower time to market with a minimum marketable feature set. New features are slipped in every iteration and the product often remains in perpetual beta.

Practices like continuous integration and continuous production often affect the product lifecycle and give the organization much greater agility. As Tim O'Rielly commented

...The open source dictum, "release early and release often" in fact has morphed into an even more radical position, "the perpetual beta," in which the product is developed in the open, with new features slipstreamed in on a monthly, weekly, or even daily basis. It's no accident that services such as Gmail, Google Maps, Flickr,, and the like may be expected to bear a "Beta" logo for years at a time.

Project smart suggested that Agile methodologies and perpetual beta go hand in hand.

Instead of delivering software that has all the knots and bolts in place according to its original design, the highest priority is satisfying the need of the customer with a simple but working version. The adage, "in perpetual beta" also applies to agile method; software improves with every iteration until all the "nice to have" features are in place.

Mike Loukides suggested that having the product in perpetual beta not only takes away a lot of pressure but also helps in encouraging creativity. According to Mike,

The perpetual beta, first formulated as “release early, release often,” is one reason behind the success of many open source projects over the years.

In their whitepaper on transitioning to Agile, OutSystems suggested that the cornerstone of all Agile techniques is interative and incremental flow which resembles perpetual beta. Since customers are a part of the Agile team, they help in shaping the system by adding bits of functionality every iteration.

However, not everyone is amused with the concept of perpetual beta. 'Getting Real' by 37signals, warns against the excessive use or longer duration of the beta tag. According to them, companies must decide how long it is really necessary to remain in beta before it starts becoming just an excuse for a weak application

Jeff Atwood suggested that perpetual beta is becoming a very disturbing trend. According to Jeff,

Perhaps the most troubling trend is the perpetual beta. So many websites stay in perpetual beta, it's almost become a running joke.

Mat Scales commented that perpetual beta is nothing but lack of confidence on the part of developers. It is a faint attempt to show that developers are still innovating. However, more often than not, it is a signal to say that there could be potential issues with the application but that is fine.

Thus, though releasing in small increments is useful for the development team and the customers, however, the team should be cognizant of the duration that they want to stay in beta. If products continue to use the beta tag to shield their weakness then soon the “perpetual beta” may lose its popularity.  

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