Evergreen Everything

I have to give it to Google, they know how to disrupt a market. They did it with search, email, mobile OS, and browsers. What was so disruptive for internet browsers? The speed? Yes, and even more the concept of evergreen versioning.

Google Chrome's high pace of releasing new versions was ridiculed at first. I found it very disturbing too, especially since I was an IT operations manager at the time. This application that could circumvent our carefully crafted release policy? Oh my!

That was back in 2008, and how things have changed in 6 years. I'm not sure who was the exact catalyst, Java update prompts or those of Flash, but people got fed up with doing a computer's job. I feel we take automatic updates for granted now, and that's a good thing.

Not too long ago I got reminded on what it was like to do major updates after a long time interval. My parents were telling me with a bit unsettled voice that their computer was warning to be self-distructing; Windows XP's support period had ended.

Panic was in the air, a solution for this unforeseen problem had to be found. And I think that's where the problem lies. There was no need to make an upgrade before. Big upgrades, require also big incentives to do so. The new thing has to bring a lot of innovation.

It is known that innovation in the PC market has stagnated. There are new things, but no longer significant enough to warrant a major update. Internet browsing, email and word processing can still be done on a 6 year old computer.

I think Apple has a good take at this problem, and you can see that in how quickly users adopt new versions. The WWDC is looming, and year after year they can tout that almost 90% of their user base has adopted the latest version of their OS'es.

This requires a paradigm shift. Users should no longer judge whether to upgrade based on heavily marketed new innovations. Instead they should experience higher efficiency and convenience, while noticing age.

Technology ages too. There's always new stuff, what masks this fact, but it is undeniable. It is simply not economically feasible to keep old stuff working forever. However, we can mimic it.

That's where evergreen versioning comes into picture. By refreshing frequently, it almost feels like software is new all year round.

Because there is always something new, it is easier to percieve age. Look at iPhones for instance. Every year when there is a new generation, the status quo is uplifted. People get used to the new. People with older generation iPhones also start to notice it, because some things do not work as fast or efficient compared to the newer generation. And it makes sense, the older generation is aging. Therefore those users are more incentivised to keep up with the latest couple of generations.

These frequent changes happen with startups also, as Eric Ries points out in The Lean Startup. Large enterprises can keep themselves fresh by applying this innovation cycle and applying continuous delivery. I think this could have prevented the mammoth update after Windows XP, and incentivised an earlier upgrade.

That's why I believe it is important to keep software products and services evergreen.