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Version Numbers

They don't mean a thing.

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Actually all software versions should start with '3'. Ask Donald Knuth. He got so tired of version number nonsense he decided to always start with π and work rightwards by one decimal for each update.

The first release is version 3, the next is 3.1, then 3.14, 3.141, 3.1415, and so on. It makes more sense than what is commonly used today.

He's also been known to use the logarithmic constant 'e' in the same way.


Paul Graham and Robert Morris discovered the secret of version numbers long ago. Together they developed Viaweb which Yahoo acquired for nearly $50 million.

Graham and Morris developed on the web. Theirs wasn't a program based on a local machine. Given this model they were able to update the software regularly, sometimes several times each day.

Given this context version numbers are irrelevant; yet Graham and Morris found how dependent the industry pundits were on them anyway. Announce a point update and you got little attention; change the 'big' number and everyone's all over you.

So whenever Graham and Morris needed more media attention they'd bump the major number.


Google largely sidestep the issue by labeling most products 'beta'.


Apple have made a game out of version numbers for their operating system, keeping the major number at '10' but regularly bumping the second number for what's supposedly a brand new operating system but which actually is a minor upgrade. In this way they've been able to recycle software to the same thin demographic year after year. OS X users who've been around since 2001 have now spent a minimum of $645 on essentially the same system.


Radsoft kept a conservative system as well: the major number got bumped now and again, as did the minor number, but the final and third number was what you had to keep an eye on. This number corresponded with the most recent version of any branch of Windows for which the software had been tested and was guaranteed to run.


ACP version numbers are also conservative. There's no real reason to bump them unless it's absolutely necessary. And going for media attention every week means you get to astronomical heights before very long.

But there is a crucial issue, due in part to the nature of the programming environment. Some upgrades require the central ACP.framework be updated as well. Normally users are expected to update everything at once but some may instead read the changelogs and only copy in what seems to have been modified.

The current ACP version (major and minor numbers) is baked into the path used by clients; the symbolic link 'Current' in the ACP.framework will point to this version; rather than risk an unseemly crash the software will simply refuse to load if all is not coordinated correctly.

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