Perpetual beta

Posted: May 2, 2012 in INB347 Web 2.0
Tags: , ,

Perpetual Beta, one of the core patterns in the web 2.0 movement, is the practice of moving from locked down package software to online services providing the same functionality through a web interface.

The web 2.0 movement will see the eventual extinction of home desktop PC’s to terminals providing access to online desktops and software as a service technologies all processed on remote location servers.

Users become the driver and act as developers in creating, updating and evolving these online services in order to make them better, based on how uesr’s use the services. User activity is live captured by developers and features are continuously added to services in order to evolve the application into something new, continuously over it’s life span; this can mean forever updating. Google, Amazon, eBay and many more services are examples of continuously updating services based on real-time use from user’s.

Good services that relate to the Perpetual Beta pattern will make best use of good practices through constant updating of it’s service through the capture of use from end users and evolve the service into something new, better and more inviting to users. Best practices for a successful web 2.0 service include:

  • Data management
  • Evolve products
  • User’s are the co-developers
  • Capture customer use
  • Release often

The key to success is harnessing the end user trend.

To further explain this pattern, Google Docs will be used as an example to compare it’s counterpart locked down Microsoft Word and how it employs good practices mentioned above to be a successful web platform service.


Google docs is an online office suite that delivers processing applications to a user through a web-based service provided by Google.  It is a real-time service that allows user’s to create and edit documents in real-time and also collaborate with other users, powered by Java (

Google docs came into production in 2006 and came out of beta in 2009. As with all Software as a service technologies, it is constantly being updated live and improving it’s features based on the way user’s are using the service.


Google docs in this example follows many best practices in relation to the discussed pattern. It is a live service that ensures user data management and protection. Running on java, it is able to run real-time and keep track of user activity for data protection and accidental closure of a document and many other features user’s have co-created. It also offers a 1GB storage space for users.  Google docs is constantly evolving, with it coming out of Beta testing after 3 years of development.  During this beta stage customers had access and use of Google docs, in which Google harnessed the trends of user activity to further enhance it’s capabilities, completely changing it’s home page interface in 2011 into a more button-click interface using Google Drive enhanced features for better sharing and collaboration with users; following the ever-growing trend of central software services. (

Below shows a comparison between Google Docs and Google Drive (Docs with enhanced capabilities. Google drive enhances a more sharing orientated service that can be accessed across multiple platforms. It uses features and functions following user trends such as share, collaborate, access anywhere; compared to older Google docs which is limited in this capability. This shows Google’s ability to harness collective intellegence of the way users are using the service and enhance it continuously throughout the life of the product.

Google docs, compared to the traditional Microsoft Office suite, offers online collaborative abilities as discussed. This makes it a powerful tool and an essential technology in the web 2.0 movement offering Software as a Service. The future is everything in the cloud and packaged software will be a thing of the past.


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