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Do Software Versions Really Matter?

timothy posted about 6 years ago | from the blame-patrick-volkerding dept.

Software 693

An anonymous reader writes "I work for a rather large software company and I am currently working on a completely new product. So new in fact, that the official name has not even been decided. I had assumed that the version number for this product would be 1.0 (at most). However recently I learned that the Product Managers want to release this NEW product with a version number somewhere between 5.0 and 8.0 because 'there is a stigma about buying 1.0 products. People assume it's no good.' This latest Dilbert-esque comedy routine nearly sent me over the edge. So to gauge my sanity against that of the upper Product Management, I ask the community: Do version numbers play a role in software decisions, or have product version numbers lost all credibility and meaning? Would the community feel comfortable buying version '6.3' software (and paying tens of thousands of dollars for it) knowing that it was the first release of the product?"

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Absolutely (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25390513)

Let me know when you hit 7.0

Post 1.1!!!! (5, Funny)

afaik_ianal (918433) | about 6 years ago | (#25391065)

You missed a perfect opportunity for "Post 1.0!!!".

It's just the opposite for me (5, Insightful)

It doesn't come easy (695416) | about 6 years ago | (#25390521)

Personally, I take to opposite view. If I try an application labeled something like version 6.0, for example, and it still has a lot of bugs in it then I'm likely to be a lot more pessimistic about the software. After all, version 6 software ought to have most of the bugs worked out by then. I would think poor quality at version 6 would reflect much more negatively on a company than at version 1.

We've all been conditioned by a source that will go unnamed for now that version 1 software is probably full of bugs, so it's not unexpected. It's also probably true that some people will avoid software simply because it's version 1. Yet, it's the same software whether you call it version 1 or 6, so it has the same bugs in it (e.g. the user who tries the software will experience the same problems, regardless of the version label). For a company to risk losing the good will of the customer on a marketing gimmick seems foolhardy to me. Trust is easy to lose, hard to regain.

Re:It's just the opposite for me (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25390731)

Obviously you don't know software programs very well. Any .0 release came easily have lots of bugs maybe even more than previous generations because it will have most likely new features. New Features mean new bugs.

Just look at Windows. The new the version the more bugs.

Re:It's just the opposite for me (4, Interesting)

It doesn't come easy (695416) | about 6 years ago | (#25391015)

Actually, I agree with what you say and of course any honestly numbered software will indeed exhibit the trend you describe. I have also seen software move from version x.0 to x.1 and get worse in the process.

However, the question was version 1 verses a higher version (such as version 6). It was not concerning version 6.0 verses 6.1 or 6.2 for example. Of course, they seem to be considering taking the fudging one step further (instead of version 1.0, use version 6.3), so what you say is still relevant from the perspective of fooling the naive customer. Still not a good way to start off a business relationship.

Re:It's just the opposite for me (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25391021)

EVERY version of Windows has more bugs...

Re:It's just the opposite for me (5, Insightful)

bugnuts (94678) | about 6 years ago | (#25390741)

The point is, you bought the software. That's what matters. You might not buy it again, but considering the cost and training and porting and whatever, you probably wouldn't abandon it.

Now, if your research showed there were two products that might do what you want: Foo v1.01 and Bar v6.0. Which one would you choose, based solely on version number?

The real point of the TFA is (the astonishment) that version numbers are no longer for the developers. They're now marketing tools, similar to a megabyte being 1,000,000 bytes (and far less formatted), or a 17" monitor really only being 15.5".

So, I see no issue with starting the version at non-1.0. I see no issue with not even having a version number, and just call it CE or Pro or 2008.

Re:It's just the opposite for me (5, Insightful)

fbjon (692006) | about 6 years ago | (#25390819)

The first version shouldn't have any version number at all, it's just the product itself, not an iteration of it. This way nobody will focus on the number, and when the next version comes along you can put that magic 2.0 there. If it sounds too plain with just the product name, you can put some meaningless and nonsequential characters there, e.g. 'EV' (Enterprisey Version), 'XP', 'NT' ... you get the idea.

Re:It's just the opposite for me (2, Interesting)

Sj0 (472011) | about 6 years ago | (#25391025)

To be fair, I've used software that had version numbers like 0.99989389 for years and years only to find it more useful than the alternatives.

And I'm using Firefox 3 when there's obviously an Internet Explorer 8 that should be 5 times better!

6.3? No way (3, Funny)

6Yankee (597075) | about 6 years ago | (#25390535)

Turn it up to 11!

It's a number game (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25390541)

Why use software X version 1.0 when I could use software Y version 6.1?

Some people just see the bigger number.

Re:It's a number game (2, Insightful)

orclevegam (940336) | about 6 years ago | (#25391017)

Why use software X version 1.0 when I could use software Y version 6.1?

Some people just see the bigger number.

And those people are called PHBs (or CEOs), and sadly they sign the checks and often make the decisions. Of course by the same token if given the choice between software X 1.0 by company Z which just took the CEO out to an all expenses paid lunch at some fancy restaurant and gave him a shiny handout claiming the software would do everything he ever dreamed of, and software Y 5.4 by company T that their IT staff says is the better application but the CEO never heard of, odds are their getting software X 1.0.

Version 7 (4, Funny)

internerdj (1319281) | about 6 years ago | (#25390545)

That will inspire confidence in quality...

Re:Version 7 (-1, Redundant)

John Jorsett (171560) | about 6 years ago | (#25390565)

That will inspire confidence in quality...

Good one.

Re:Version 7 (0, Redundant)

Killer Orca (1373645) | about 6 years ago | (#25390629)

That's Microsoft's bet with Win. 7

Re:Version 7 (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25390765)

.....that was the joke

Re:Version 7 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25390867)

.....that was the joke

Whoosh! (patent pending)

Re:Version 7 (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | about 6 years ago | (#25390903)

Yep, especially as near as I can tell, if you're just going on numbered products released to the public, it should be someplace between Version 10 and Version 15 by now. (we're talking about Windows 2009, if somebody is still in the dark). Now to hang my more on-topic discussion into this reply near the top. MAJOR VERSION NUMBERS MEAN SQUAT. Major version numbers are just marketing for the customers. What really counts from a technical perspective is the minor version number, the build number, and the modified date on the binary. From these three pieces of information, you can decide whether or not to upgrade to get rid of that fiddling little bug. That's the only REAL use version numbers have ever had.

Nonsense (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25390551)

Just look at warty warthog.

Why promote it? (5, Insightful)

Chris Pimlott (16212) | about 6 years ago | (#25390557)

Most users won't even notice the version number unless you put it in the face. Just call it FooBuster and put the version number in an about box somewhere.

Research (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25390567)

I do research before purchasing any software, if I will Google for your software and will not see any references to past versions I will not purchase it.

Slashdot might not be the best place to ask (5, Funny)

Drooling Iguana (61479) | about 6 years ago | (#25390569)

A lot of us are probably using Open Source software that's been released and relatively stable for years but is still only at version 0.2.07 or somesuch. We're not exactly representative of the general public.

Re:Slashdot might not be the best place to ask (4, Funny)

AchilleTalon (540925) | about 6 years ago | (#25390889)

Yep, everything before 1.0 is considered stable enough for production.When it hits the 1.0 version number, this is considered suspicious and may have something broken in it and not backward compatible with the 0.x versions.

Re:Slashdot might not be the best place to ask (1)

AchilleTalon (540925) | about 6 years ago | (#25391041)

Forgot to mention everything higher than 1.0 is considered old, outdated technology and not worth bothering with.

Avoid anything that is... (1)

kosh (4232) | about 6 years ago | (#25390581)

Avoid anything that has any major version number followed by .0 once a product hits x.2 or x.3 it should be fine...

Service Packs have jaded me :)

Re:Avoid anything that is... (1)

David Gerard (12369) | about 6 years ago | (#25390773)

Sure worked for Windows NT 3.1! ... wait.

It's the point zero (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25390593)

Not the actual version number. Anyone with real IT experience will know not to touch .0 releases in a professional environment, regardless of vendor.

Larry Ellison did this with Oracle (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25390619)


When Oracle began selling its first commercial SQL relational database management system in 1978, which version was first officially released?
A: Version 1.0
B: Version 2.0
C: Version 3.0
Answer: Version 2.0. There was never a 1.0 version. Said Ellison: "Who'd buy a version 1.0 from four guys in California?"

I'll have a Seven and Seven (4, Funny)

Qrlx (258924) | about 6 years ago | (#25390621)

This is like the one where they had to rename the movie "The Madness of King George."

Americans, the story goes, wouldn't be interested in "The Madness of King George III" because they missed parts I and II.

Re:I'll have a Seven and Seven (1)

c0mmanderb0nd (994754) | about 6 years ago | (#25390783)

But we got House IV without seeing House III??????

It worked on me. (5, Funny)

interstellar_donkey (200782) | about 6 years ago | (#25390623)

Way back in 1995, I upgraded my version of Windows to Win v95 from Win v3.11. I thought "oh man, there's been 92 upgraded versions of this software! I better get with the times!"

On the other hand.... (4, Insightful)

Trojan35 (910785) | about 6 years ago | (#25390635)

If there's a version 6.3 of software in my field that I've never heard of, I generally assume it's some crappy shareware knockoff of what I'm already using.

If it's version 1.0, I want to see what was so important that they had to make a new piece of software (which is why I tried out Google Chrome). (2, Interesting)

Underfoot (1344699) | about 6 years ago | (#25390639)

I have seen purchasing decisions based on version... but usually it has less to do with what the version number is, and more to do with how long the version has been on the market. If a version 1.0 was just launched, unless there was a large business case for taking the risk of buying it, the company I work for would wait until 1.1 (or until 1.0 had been on market long enough to prove itself stable). Same goes for upgrades, a new release of a product is not moved to unless there is a large business case for the move (or the version has been on the market long enough).

What's long enough? Depends on the vendor and their release cycle.

Just look at OrCAD (2, Interesting)

chopper749 (574759) | about 6 years ago | (#25390641)

Over the past five years, Version 9.6 became 9.7 with no real updates. 9.7 jumped to 10, and then 10.2 with no real updates. Then it jumped all the way to 15.7 with no real update. Then came version 16.0, with no real updates. Next month I can look forward to version 16.2! I'm not expecting any real updates.

Seriously (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25390643)

Just call it "_________ 5000" and it'll be a while before it starts to sound outdated.

Re:Seriously (1)

Eudial (590661) | about 6 years ago | (#25390941)

Just call it "_________ 5000" and it'll be a while before it starts to sound outdated.

Yeah, we all know how well HAL 9000 [] worked.

Dirty, dirty tactics (4, Insightful)

syousef (465911) | about 6 years ago | (#25390645)

Your employer basically just admitted to you that they're trying to deceive and mislead the customer.

The reason people feel more comfortable with higher version numbers is that they assume the code is more mature at version 5 than the first cut would be at version 1. Anyone with a serious interest who heavily depends on the software will see past this and look into the history of the software, especially where large amounts of money are changing hands to aquire the software. Your company on the other hand is hunting for schmucks who'll give them money without doing proper research. Not a good sign. That is not how you gain long term customers and cement a relationship that will result in further sales and on-selling. Your sales/marketting people probably already have their CV ready. So should you.

It's standard practise (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25390651)

It's standard practise in the world of proprietary software and spin. The act of releasing software with its actual version number is a uniquely open source thing.

It even extends to hardware. When I was laying out circuit boards, my employer insisted that the version numbers on the PCB be incremented or obfuscated.

Management is management (1)

c0mmanderb0nd (994754) | about 6 years ago | (#25390653)

Just remember the same management that throws out this wacked out theory is a parallel of the management that will be deciding to buy the product in question. I would throw back to management how they are going to answer questions of details if you do up the number, to say version 3 or 6 as to who has actually been using the product and what the user base is up to. Really you can attach any version number you want, but anyone doing due diligence will get by that number and realize they are one of the first to buy your product. So you can either poorly BS, or just realize someone has to buy it first and be honest from the get go. Unless of course management choose to be atypical corporate and make up details and customers to back up how the first version of your software has a fabricated stellar history to sell more to those uneasy about being the first ones on board.

Well, Ubuntu did it... (1)

Frac O Mac (1138427) | about 6 years ago | (#25390665)

Of course, theirs tells you when it was released, seems to takes most people a while to figure that out, myself included.

Similar to Dbase II when it came out ..... (3, Informative)

SargentDU (1161355) | about 6 years ago | (#25390673)

There never was a Dbase I version, their initial release was Dbase II. :)

They're all just stupid labels nowadays (3, Insightful)

HexOxide (1375611) | about 6 years ago | (#25390677)

Who pays attention to version numbers on anything nowadays? I don't they've all because ridiculously named and hard to keep track of, ME, XP, 2K, MX, CS1/2/3/S, Gusty Gibbon, Feisty Fawn, Hoary Hedgehog etc etc.

What happened to the good old days when it really was just simple version numbers?

Re:They're all just stupid labels nowadays (2, Informative)

mqatrombone (306870) | about 6 years ago | (#25390759)

Gutsy, Feist, Hoary, etc are codenames. The actual release is Ubuntu 7.04, Ubuntu 7.10, Ubuntu 8.04 LTS, etc. Which is stupid, but for another reason altogether.

Numers are meaningless NOT! (1)

jackb_guppy (204733) | about 6 years ago | (#25390685)

This becomes a multi-headed issued.

Yes, numbers generally are not needed or meaningful except to say "this is more resent than that". So starting with V08 is not a problem since V08 could mean 2008.

Does your company have other software that is *MUST* work with this software?

If yes - the numbers can matter. It is easier to keep compatibility, if all software has similar numbering systems. Look at VMWare were each has it own numbering system - how do to tell easily that X V1.5 works with Y V3.5.

Think about taking your company into dropping numbers for years or V08. This makes a better case of aligning one product with even other companies' products. Such MS Office 2007. ;-)

Type of software (1)

dr_strang (32799) | about 6 years ago | (#25390687)

It really depends on the type of software and the target demographic.

Versioning (1)

JCSoRocks (1142053) | about 6 years ago | (#25390689)

Version numbers have lost a lot of their meaning. We've been on version 2 of my company's product for something like 6 years. We just keep on increasing the minor and subrevision numbers.

Personally I think it's sort of crazy. The version number inevitably ends up being obsolete in no time. FireFox was just released and it's already 3.0.3... but no one is going to call it that. They're just going to call it FF3. I think the same holds true for pretty much all other products.

You should just compromise and version your product using the year it's released and then just attach a build number to it based on the date. If you actually plan on releasing significantly different versions during the year you can follow the lead of the component design firms and do something like 2008.1 (or 2009.1 if you won't be releasing this year).

Other solution (1)

El Cabri (13930) | about 6 years ago | (#25390691)

I'd agree there's definitely the potential for a "$99-style" psychological effect of labeling a software product "1.0". However instead of outright lying about how many versions of this product have actually already been field-tested, I think it is more elegant to completely remove the version number from the product information and marketing, instead just leaving at most a build number in the Help/About dialog.

Every developers dream (2, Funny)

leuk_he (194174) | about 6 years ago | (#25390697)

would be to take the version and rebuild it from scratch to a new 1.0 version where all the old cruft is removed.

Windows 7 (5, Insightful)

David Gerard (12369) | about 6 years ago | (#25390699)

Windows 7 is actually the .1 release of the third version of NT. (No wonder they finally gave up and just called the next version "Windows". [] ) But then they started the NT line with the first release being "3.1".

Going back in history, dBase II was actually the first version of dBase. For just this reason: no-one trusts a 1.0.

In open source, it goes the other way - the project has to just about take over the goddamn world before they'll admit it could possibly be a "1.0" release.

Summary: version numbers are marketing just like everything else.

It only matters to... (1)

sdguero (1112795) | about 6 years ago | (#25390701)

people who are stupid enough to buy software based on the version number rather than research if it is quality software.

Now that I think about it, that's our entire purchasing dept...

New Marketing decree:
From now on all revisions will be released as version 7!

Version 2009 (1)

sowalsky (142308) | about 6 years ago | (#25390703)

Just call it what it is -- the internal version can be or whatever, but the version on the box and in all literature can be Version 2009 (or the year of release). That was popular about 8 years ago...and still works too!

Example (3, Insightful)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | about 6 years ago | (#25390705)

Maybe that is the reason they didn't name it an Xbox 2, when there is a Playstation 3 out.

My 1.1 opinion (1)

wumpus188 (657540) | about 6 years ago | (#25390707)

No, major version doesn't matter. What most people feel afraid of is .0 releases - always start your public releases from .1 version.

Re:My 1.1 opinion (4, Funny)

Eudial (590661) | about 6 years ago | (#25390887)

  • .0 is risky business.
  • .1 is slightly more stable.
  • .2 is pretty stable.
  • .3 is really stable.
  • .4 is rock solid.
  • .5 is without a doubt really stable.
  • .6 may contain new code for the next .0 release, so it's less stable.
  • .7 probably contains new code for the next .0 release.
  • .8 -- will it even start?
  • .9 ships in a makeshift box made out of duct tape and old newspapers.

It's all Dilbert-esque (1)

PingXao (153057) | about 6 years ago | (#25390713)

Software versions matter because they let you know what's older and what's newer, but that's about it. Case in point: I'm trying to get the Network Block Device client/server setup working on an embedded device running Linux 2.6.26. The client part in the kernel is incomplete if you want to try using it for swapping (but that's another story). The versions of the NBD client (and server kernel patches) range from 2.0 to 2.4, but these have nothing to do with the version of the kernel. It's confusing as hell.

You can number it wrong, but you will have to lie (5, Insightful)

BobMcD (601576) | about 6 years ago | (#25390723)

What you're proposing simply won't work, and carries a huge risk of making you and your company look dumb. Also, without a plausible explanation why your 1.0 is actually labeled 6.3, the customers, sales force, and techs are all likely to make up their own. Many of them are not very appealing:

A) We actually stole it from a competitor and kept their version numbers

B) We went through six major version changes before arriving at a marketable product

C) We have been selling this product to a different market, under another name, for years

The '1.0' moniker is a label. It carries with it the meaning that something is new. Remove that label, replacing it with one that means something is NOT new, and people's minds will invent the reason why.

Unless of course you come up with a good story and get it straight ahead of time. This is well known as a basic tenant of dishonesty...

Your Product Managers are idiots. (1)

wonderboss (952111) | about 6 years ago | (#25390725)

The quality of the software is what matters. You should be working with a small number of smart customers that accept running the product before it released to give you feedback. By the time you ship the official first version it should be rock solid and you should have testimonials from customers that have been using it in production for some time. We show customers something as soon as it is wiggling. They tell us what is wrong with it and we loop until we have something useful and they start asking "when can I have it?" or better yet "give it to me now, I don't care if it is not "production." When we have something we believe is solid, we start charging money for it. I bet your product managers also want to ship it before it is solid.

Alternatives.... (5, Funny)

ThrowAwaySociety (1351793) | about 6 years ago | (#25390729)

- Release it as a beta, and never let it out (Charge for the "beta.")
- Use the year as the version
- Use a chemical element or gemstone as the version
- Use an animal as the version.
- Use two random consonants.
- Periodically drop the most significant digit

Business (2, Insightful)

Burnhard (1031106) | about 6 years ago | (#25390735)

You have a lot to learn about business. As a Software Engineer, your best approach would be to make software products that your company can sell. That means you listen to sales and marketing, and anyone else who knows what its like trying to shift copy on the ground. When they say you have to release as version 6.3, that's what you do. If 1.0 doesn't sell, you're out of a job.

You F4Il It (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25390737)

in time. For aal Happen. 'At least but suufice it FreeBSD showed to yet another

It's misleading (1)

mschuyler (197441) | about 6 years ago | (#25390753)

It's misleading and a clear fabrication. I can understand not wanting 1.0, but why not keep the version number off altogether? After all, you don't really have a 'version' until and unless you come up with an update. I believe customers do pay attention to version numbers. Not that '6.0' guarantees anything, but it implies a product that has been around awhile, been accepted for awhile, and that the company has not turned its attention away from it and updates, probably based on customer feedback.

Bad karma from this: Class Action suit.

The change list (2, Interesting)

greed (112493) | about 6 years ago | (#25390761)

If I see a version-greater-than-one of something, I'll take a look at the change list and see how quickly new features get added, or bugs get resolved.

So if I see a high version number and no history, I see a scam.

I don't go for scams. I prefer to report them to the local authorities.

Credibility... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25390763)

If a prospective client sees "New Software version 7.4!" and does a search to see what people thought about previous versions it will only make you look shady.

Anyone who's encountered Linux should know that version number is irrelevant most of the time. One of my favorite programs is version 0.1.6, does that mean it's not even remotely stable?

Version Inflation (1)

Dimitrii (958525) | about 6 years ago | (#25390771)

I have had a similar problem. We had a numbering scheme all worked out with much discussion back and forth to clarify with examples of how it will be used. All of the managers agreed. When it was nearly implemented a BA thought it was too complex (major.minor with an optional letter for patches, pretty standard if you ask me) so we now have a major release 10 or 11 times a year.

How does the new 48.0 version work? Naw, lets wait 6 weeks for 50.0 to come out.

Re:Version Inflation (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | about 6 years ago | (#25391069)

Well, Visual Studio should take care of that on the Windows Side- 2005 and 2008 seem to both be missing autoincrement minor version number. I ended up just appending the date onto the back.

I think it's because you like sodium (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25390785)

The aliens tried to penetrate myu defenses with their storiy books but I am not French. Toads are nice with bugs for bugs for bugs for bugs in telegrammmmmmmmmmm

Think of it as a positive (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25390787)

6.3 will be the number of weeks it spent in development; the number is truly relevant and honest so you should feel good about it.

Marketing vs Development (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25390797)

Two different version numbers - the marketing version number can be used to help customers differentiate between iterations of a product. The development version is generally used internally to differentiate between feature sets.

That being said, using a version number for marketing is probably not very creative. Use something more expressive like ProductName YearReleased (i.e. Foo 2008), which lets the customer more easily distinguish which version they want (perhaps 2008a, 2008b for major patches). Or just come up with a different creative name for each iteration (perhaps with an optional version number to help new users who don't know your names yet) ala Apple.

Maybe yes, Maybe no (1)

ChaseTec (447725) | about 6 years ago | (#25390799)

Read: []

If they really want to start at > 1 then at least talk them into something with meaning, try an abbreviation of the year. For instance start at version 8 if you release this year. Have 8.1 for a follow up released this year. This way there is a justifiable reason if your customs question you on it and the number actually conveys some meaningful information.

Product Versions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25390801)

Windows 7

Due Diligence? (1)

jmcharry (608079) | about 6 years ago | (#25390807)

If the software costs tens of thousands of dollars anyone doing due diligence is going to look for reviews of earlier versions if the version number is greater than 1.0. When they find out there aren't any earlier versions, what are they going to think?

Re:Due Diligence? (1)

justkarl (775856) | about 6 years ago | (#25391043)

I know an example of this happening at our company. When evaluating a multi-MILLION dollar package, our vendor was treated to questions like "What bugfixes have been implemented since the last version"? "How many major versions have you shipped"?
Could be a slippery slope for those who say, "Well, we haven't fixed any bugs per se, but we thought that 7.0 sounded really professional."

Version? Why not year? (1)

ameline (771895) | about 6 years ago | (#25390809)

Why not just use the year? -- (tv salesman voice) "All new fobar_soft(tm) 2009! Supplies are limited! Get yours today! If you order now, you also get..."

(just finished up on Mudbox 2009 aka V2.x :-), so this hits close to home :-)

Reminds me of Slackware (4, Insightful)

Jimmy King (828214) | about 6 years ago | (#25390823)

I remember long ago when Slackware jumped from 4.0 to 7.0, not because there had been 3 major revisions that just hadn't gotten released or something like that, but because Red Hat was already on 6.0 and Patrick Volkerding was tired of being asked why Slackware wasn't at 6.0 yet.

To answer the original question, version numbers don't mean much. They can give you an initial clue, but you've got to look at the history of the software to know the truth. Sometimes there are huge version jumps just because, sometimes there are major changes but only a change to a minor revision number.

just a symptom (-1)

bcrowell (177657) | about 6 years ago | (#25390825)

This isn't really quite as dilberty as the poster indicates. This is a symptom of a more general problem, which is that non-OSS software almost always sucks, because the economics dictate that it has to suck. If it was OSS, users could install it on their machines, try it out for a while, and decide whether it was any good or not. (Note that this still works fine for commercial OSS. E.g., people can try Ubuntu before deciding whether to deploy it widely in their organization and then pay Canonical for support.) If it's not OSS, you don't typically have any way of knowing whether it's good or not. Sure, you could read reviews, talk to friends, etc. But that's sort of like deciding to buy a car without having a chance to test-drive it, just based on your buddy saying he has one and he likes it.

The worst piece of non-OSS software I ever owned was Adobe PageMaker 6.5, but the only way I found out how bad it was was by writing a book using it, and finding out after I'd gotten pretty far into the project that PageMaker was gradually starting to corrupt my files, and was also crashing often enough to cause me real problems. It would crash one day, and I'd lose my file. So then I'd open the file again to page 93, which I'd been working on, and it would crash again because page 93 was corrupted. So then I'd get the file back off of backup. But then I'd click to page 87, and it would crash again. So the backup was no use either, because it was corrupted on page 87. In this example, there's absolutely no way I could have tested the software sufficiently before buying it to find out that I was going to have these horrendous problems.

Because users usually can't evaluate the quality of non-OSS software very effectively, there is absolutely no incentive for non-OSS software houses to work on quality. They can't sell quality. What they can sell is features.

So it's not quite as silly as it sounds to think you can pull the wool over the users' eyes by putting out a beta release and calling it 6.0. The users don't have a lot of other options to go on for evaluating quality.

year as version number? (1)

GreatRedShark (880833) | about 6 years ago | (#25390853)

Jumping straight to 6.0 seems a little strange. Especially since no customer will have ever recalled hearing about versions 5, 4, 3, 2, or 1.
Why not go to year numbers as versions, such as "FooApp 2008"? Only problem with that is it looks outdated if you don't have a new version every year or two, but that could probably be fixed with little maintenance releases every year.

V5.0? No way. (1)

BabaChazz (917957) | about 6 years ago | (#25390855)

With a version number as high as 5 or 6, I at least would expect to have some history behind it, and if I saw that there was none, I would remove it from my list of possibles. A company that will lie about its experience will likely also lie about capabilities, and will be generally untrustworthy. I might consider commercial software at v2.0, or v2.01, if I couldn't find a v1.0. That said, if there is a related product, that would be different. For instance, Windows NT debuted at 3.1, because 16-bit Windows, which apart from its bitness was very similar, was then at 3.1. That I can accept. Grudgingly. (WinWord jumping from 2.0 to 6.0 because Word for DOS was already at 6.0? Nope. That's just stupid.) So if you are selling Widget 5.0 now, and you are bringing out SuperWidget, basically the same thing but significantly different under the hood where ye average user can't see it, SuperWidget could debut at 5.0 with only minor grumbling.

Hide it (2, Insightful)

Itsallmyfault (1015439) | about 6 years ago | (#25390857)

I concur with leaving in the About box, and nowhere else. The only people concerned with looking for a version number would be those who need to know if this is an upgrade from their current version.

Anonymous Coward (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25390859)

Where I work we will NOT buy anything that an x.0.
No matter what the value of the 'x'.
That's with an annual software budget of ~$65m.

What are you really doing? (3, Interesting)

Estanislao Martnez (203477) | about 6 years ago | (#25390879)

The name of a product is a marketing decision, period. The version numbers that make sense to you as developer of the product, at best, mean nothing to the buyers of the product. At worst, well, your own example about "1.0" is perfect.

You need to have some internal scheme for keeping track of builds and versions of your product for release management and support issues, but there's no sense in having engineers decide whether a given release is 2.5 or 3.0. Let marketing pick the name that's most meaningful to buyers.

Are you sure? (1)

codehabit (1339817) | about 6 years ago | (#25390885)

Do you work for Microsoft? Are you talking about Win 7? You must be talking about Win 7.

Yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25390891)

It does matter. Version numbers at often remembered, along with the software itself. Some people grow certain affection for a certain Version of a piece of software and want no others to come before it. And there is the opposite effect, where a certain version of a piece of software stands out as a buggy/bloated/what-have-you piece of shit...

On one hand... (1)

shoegoo (674914) | about 6 years ago | (#25390899)

I does sound kind of crazy, but then again, I have always been told not to start a checkbook at check #1 for similar reasons.

google and knowledge base (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25390907)

are the two important indicators of the level of acceptance of a software product. I think they override the version number.

Tools with an anemic user forum is a real turn off.

A quick search in google will show that a product doesn't have earlier versions. Google will reveal the size of the user base.

There are good commercial products out there with poor knowledge base and small user base, but how many of them make it to release 6?


Less than 1.0 (1)

treeves (963993) | about 6 years ago | (#25390911)

version numbered software can be very good.

e.g. Inkscape [] , which is currently 0.46! (stable version).

It's pretty arbitrary when to go to 1.0, 2.0, etc., I would say.

That's why MS switched to code names... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25390921)

Except now their service packs are like version numbers.

Ask Sybase what happened to ver 5? (1)

hax4bux (209237) | about 6 years ago | (#25390927)

Our genius marketing people decided we had to match the current Oracle version (back in 1992).

It's been 16 years, I saw this first hand and it still surprises me.

If this were FARK.. (1)

Duncan Blackthorne (1095849) | about 6 years ago | (#25390943)

..they'd use the "ASININE" tag for it.

Obviously your product management people think little of the intelligence of your customer base, let alone the sanity of their developers.

Doesn't mean a thing (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about 6 years ago | (#25390951)

All it does is tell if you have what is current. and since release schedules are different for everyone, it doesn't natively even tell you how old your software is.

Version numbers are so arbitrary that its about meaningless.

In a pickle? (1)

s-twig (775100) | about 6 years ago | (#25390955)

You should really consult The World's Smartest Garbageman.

RHEL 2.1 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25390965)

Your company isn't the only one. Check out how Red Hat went from Red Hat Linux 9 to Red Hat Enterprise Linux 2.1 [] . A friend of mine who used to work for them told me they had a similar meeting with marketing, and marketing thought that not only would 1.0 look too immature, but that 2.0 would have too immature of a _minor_ version number. Hence it came to be that the first version of RHEL was RHEL 2.1

This is a fight you are going to loose (1)

JohnNevets (924868) | about 6 years ago | (#25390983)

Not because I think you are wrong, but because sales folk typically have a different ethical barometer. You can call it what ever number the sales guy wants, but when someone does a bit of reserch online they are going to see that there is no history. I know for me personally if I didn't see any history on a product, I'll rarely buy it, and if it was version 6.3 and it didn't have any reviews/history I would think it was fishy, and definitely not buy it. Then again, there are plenty of people out there that never do reserch, so you may fool some of them. Good luck with fighting the good fight.... you're going need it against sales guys. John

You should not care (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25390991)

I also worked in a large corporation. From the inception of a project up to the final release PM&M changed the name and version of the product suite more than 5 times (more common than you think as a matter of fact). Personally, I could not care less about the name and version (although I was pretending the contrary in from of them just for fun). However, as a developer I did care about renaming and updating the information in the source code (including the name of, for example, the preferences files). The first time, I changed the name, version and legal information manually. The second time, I refactored the code to put all this volatile information at a same and unique place. From then on, I was laughing each time the sales & marketing people were wondering if changing something would delay the release. My 2 cents: do not care about the "perception is reality" factor, just make your life simple when you have to follow the BS coming from the top...

P.S. The most funny thing was that the internal code name of the product was entirely free for the engineering, so we were putting the most crazy splash screens we could think of, a different one at each milestone build. Each time a newbie PM&M was making waves about it not knowing that the name was for internal purpose only :-)

Why Do You Care? (5, Insightful)

pete-classic (75983) | about 6 years ago | (#25391011)

I'm going to assume you're an Engineer. (Since you're a Slashdotter and refer to "the Product Managers".)

I think it's swell that you're all involved with your project and everything. That said, do you like it when management and/or marketing types get all in your shit about how you do your job?

Honestly, those cheese-eating motherfuckers probably really do have a better idea than you do about how to sell this stuff. Let them. You'll all feel better if you do!


v6 and I haven't heard of it? (1)

Pav (4298) | about 6 years ago | (#25391013)

A high version number on a product I haven't even heard of screams fringe/unpopular. If I were concerned about the 1.0 effect I wouldn't print it large with the branding - perhaps only in tiny print on the back somewhere, or even not at all.

The version makes a difference, not the number (1)

Todd Knarr (15451) | about 6 years ago | (#25391031)

For me, the version of the software makes a difference. The very first released version I'm going to be wary of, it's likely to need some shaking-out given the industry's track record. Similarly when a package undergoes a major internal re-write I'm wary of the first release of the new codebase for the same reason. But the version number doesn't play into that at all. Call it 1.0 or 6.73, it's still the first released version and I'll still be wary until I see some real-world evidence of whether it's good or flaky.

Of course, version numbering does affect my decision in another way. If a company's straight-forward in their versioning, keeping minor revisions containing only bug-fixes and minor enhancements, incrementing the major version number when they make major internal changes that might affect stability, major API changes and the like, then I tend to trust their releases because they're giving me a clear indication what I can expect. OTOH, if they obfuscate the version numbering to try and deceive me into thinking the release is something it isn't, I immediately start to distrust everything about their software. If they're deceptive in one place, they'll be deceptive in others and I've got enough headaches to deal with already thankyouverymuch.

The old way of doing it.. (1)

POTSandPANS (781918) | about 6 years ago | (#25391035)

is to use version numbers. Quite a few businesses seem to be going the microsoft way and just using the year instead of a version number. This way people will want to upgrade because nobody wants to use last year's version.

I think it depends who will be buying the software. I don't care what the version number is as long as there is an easy way to know what version you have. There are quite a few people though that will buy from company A instead of company B, simply because company A is at version 5.0 and company B is only at version 2.1.

Compromise (1)

TheModelEskimo (968202) | about 6 years ago | (#25391037)

Go by the year. Tell them about grassroots activism, show them examples of companies being publicly shamed by bloggers picking up tips like "software is actually 1.0 but advertised as version 6", and then tell these guys, "look, we can both have our cake and eat it too if we just call it $SOFTWAREPCKG 2009" or similar.

Now that everything is The Internet This or The Internet That, you just go out, grab some anecdote from somebody's website, and create a "crucial lesson you musn't forget" out of it. This is the answer to many a dumb question by sales guys, clients, etc. :-)

X.0 more woesome than 8.X (1)

TheGreatOrangePeel (618581) | about 6 years ago | (#25391049)

Myself, I key in on whether or not it's "X.0" version software FAR more than I key in on that first number. 8.0, 12.0, 1.0, etc. I treat the same. However 8.1.39, 1.0.10, etc suggest some version control in action and I'm much more likely to give it a shot.

...I do have to question, why bother with a version number on the first release at all? Just call it "Brand New Product(tm)!" instead of "Brand New Product(tm) v8.9!" When the software has been around for several years and actually gets up to a higher version, then tack it on for marketing [ae]ffect. Not to mention that if I happen to follow your company's software and see a new product already in high numbered versions, I'll scoff and steer clear.

MAME versions... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25391067)

Another example of idiocy was when MAME was at version 0.99. People were demanding them to release version 1.0, because of various reasons (stability, "official" status, finished product), none of which made an iota of sense. So they went with 0.100.

Moral of the story: if version numbers matter, you're an idiot.

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