Next Release will bring Paradise (Mit’n nächsten Release kommts Paradies)

After 20 years of installing new software all the time, moving from version 0.93b-5 over many steps to version 17.4 or even beta 17.41 we have been educated and trained that there is always another version coming that is inherently better, faster and in every aspect more desirable than the release that was perfect until 10 minutes ago and just became obsolete.

The high-tech digital media and software industry is driven by innovation and the restless search for the ultimate solution that is as evasive as bug-free code or the sorcerer’s stone. Release numbers are essential to track the versions and ensure that software is managed properly both during development and when deployed.

Among geeks it is common knowledge to never trust software that has a version number that ends with a “0”. Version 3.01, appearing 10 days after the perfectly tested and reliable grand new software version has been released,  will have the worst bugs fixed. Many programs include automatic upgrading features and look for new releases based on a user-configurable schedule. And rather being content that a piece of software is somewhat stable, one is almost disappointed when new versions are not available on a somewhat regular schedule. (What are these guys doing? Nobody working there?).

The director of the Vienna University Computing Center, Dr. Peter Rastl, always wished for an embroidered pillow, reading “Mit’n nächsten Release kommts Paradies” (Next release will bring paradise; rhymes in German, refers to the Viennese pop cultural belief that wine, women (today gender-neutral also with men), and music will bring paradise anyway).

There is one small issue with the wonderful concept of release numbers. Not everything – in fact almost nothing – develops in a linear fashion and while this may work to track incremental improvements in operating systems, it is a pretty useless concept for real-world environments. Microsoft just released Windows 7 and unless you’re an insider who knows about internal numbering from NT to NT-4, was XP a 5 and Vista a 6? – it makes little sense. But so what.

For the Web, Tim O’Reilly coined the term Web 2.0 in 2002 for a conference he planned and to indicate that it’s time to rethink what the Web is all about. To continue with a quest for Web 3.0 does exactly the opposite. Rather than rethinking how networked media develop over the next 3 – 5 years, any “Web 3.0”- approach maintains the status quo. Some developments are predictable: much higher transmission capacities and bandwidth, everything goes global and away from the computer. Other developments are much harder to predict. More about that later.

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