The pace of technology change has always been fast, but now even technology companies are feeling the pinch.
There was a time when new software updates were released years after one another. Then that changed to releases that were released months apart. Today more and more software companies are putting their foot down and accelerating releases to an almost weekly basis.
Google releases new Chrome versions faster than most people can keep up. Version 14 of the increasingly popular browser was released this week as a stable release. Already version 15 and 16 are well into development. By the end of the year both of those may have been released formally and version 18 will be in sight.
Taking its queue from Chrome, Mozilla has also sped up its release schedule. New versions of the browser are released every six months or so, pushing the version numbers forward rapidly.
The latest software house to consider jumping on the rapid-fire release schedule is Canonical, makers of the popular Ubuntu Linux operating system.
Canonical is apparently considering releasing a new version of Ubuntu every month, a significant speed-up from it’s already rapid six-monthly releases.
In a recent blog post, Scott James Remnant, a member of the Ubuntu Technical Board, outlined some of the problems with the six-monthly release cycle and suggested that perhaps a monthly release cycle would be better.
The proposal from Remnant is that Ubuntu switches to a monthly release cycle starting with the 11.10 version of Ubuntu due out next month. By his reckoning the 11.11 version would follow in November, 11.12 in December and 12.01 in January.
With so little time between the various releases under the new system, a new version would be incrementally different to the one preceding it. Users would then be able to choose how close to the edge they want to be, with some opting for releases a few months older, while others work with the bleeding-edge version.
In many ways the release process would be similar to Debian’s release schedule, which has a testing release available as well as a stable version. Users would then be able to choose which version suited them.
While there are benefits to speeding up the release cycle for any piece of software, especially for power users that love new things, there are also pitfalls.
One of those particular problems is that the software becomes a moving target. It’s something that has affected Firefox since it sped up it’s release cycle.
For many developers, having to constantly update plugins as new releases are issued is not worth the time and puts too much pressure on them.
While Ubuntu may not suffer the same fate as Firefox if it does adopt a monthly release cycle, it does need to tread cautiously so as not to alienate contributors.