Mindmeister: The Perpetual Beta Without the Beta Tag

Post date: Oct 24, 2011 9:51:13 AM

“There's no final version. Nothing is static, everything is changing.”(Chitu, 2007). This is how Google defines the idea of perpetual beta, software as a part of an indefinite and continuous development cycle (Wikipedia, 2010). This is the new way of thinking about software development and one that gives young companies an advantage because they are not in the habit of the traditional software release cycle.

Mindmeister is a collaborative mind mapping tool that demonstrates the Web 2.0 principle of ‘Perpetual Beta’ and has seen success through these innovations.Meisterlabs has made operations a core competency. Their security page boasts 99.9% uptime and the highest data center standards (Mindmeister, 2010) and their product is updated many times a month. Such measures are essential for web 2.0 applications that are offered as services because they won’t perform well without regular maintenance (O’Reilly, 2005).

Mindmeister user numbers

Meisterlabs subscribes to the benefits of releasing their software early and often.Through the change log it is clear that their service is updated multiple times per month. The improvements made however, are usually small and not always noticeable to users.

Improvements are able to be regularly rolled out through utilizing light weight, flexible and cross-platform programming languages. O’Reilly (2005) refers to such examples as php, AJAX or ruby on rails as prime examples of code which can be written quickly to enable responsiveness. Mindmeister uses HTML, CSS and AJAX client side to allow their application to be rendered by most browsers. Ruby on wheels is used server side (Hollauf, 2010).

Mindmeister uses beta testers who post reports on bugs they identify.Mindmeister aims to be responsive to these reports. O’Rielly(2005) identifies the use of shadow applications which can collect data on how an application being used. These should be planned and implemented with the main application.Based on the data (see below) Mindmeister is able to provide it can be assumed they use shadow applications. Other sites such as Google and Amazon have been know to engage a small percentage of their users in such tests before rolling out products. Testing is used trial new business strategies and application functionality.

Web 2.0 means consumers are now purchasing services instead of artifacts.These services need to be maintained to respond to user requirements and through leaving an application in perpetual beta products see a faster time to market, reduced risk (less up front cost), a closer relationship to customers and the ability to quickly and effectively respond to real time data (O’Rielly, 2005).

Question for Thought

Will we see the Beta label return to products when large versions are released?