Yahoo! Mail Beta: Perpetual Beta
This week’s blog is about ‘Perpetual Beta’, just one of Tim O’Reilly’s Web 2.0 Patterns. I will cover the Web 2.0 Application, Yahoo! Mail Beta. I will also give an overview of Perpetual Beta and how Yahoo! Mail Beta relates to this weeks pattern.
Perpetual Beta Overview
In Tim O’Reilly’s ‘Design Patterns and Business Models’, he describes Perpetual Beta as “The open source dictum, ‘release early and release often’ in fact as morphed into an even more radical position, ‘ the perpetual Beta,’ in which the product is developed in the open, with new features slipstreamed in on a monthly, weekly, or even daily basis.”
One key characteristic of the Internet era is that software is now delivered as a service and not as a product. This has lead to a number of changes in the business models of organisations such as Google and Yahoo!. O’Reilly also discussed that Internet era software is a fundamental shift from software as an artifact to Software as a Service (SaaS) and that ‘the software will cease to perform unless it is maintained on a daily basis.’
Internet era software has become such a crucial part of business models in companies like Google and Yahoo! and is therefore the reason why these big name companies feel like they need to continuously update their services in order to enhance the user experience. By applying the ‘Beta’ label to their services; companies are able to engage their users to be real-time testers. This allows companies to receive valuable feedback on the errors/bugs that users have come across that need to be resolved. Perpetual Beta provides the following benefits:
- Faster time to market – Yahoo! got their product into the market so they could receive feedback from their user base.
- Reduced risk – Risk of releasing a product and not meeting user needs/specifications.
- Closer relationship with customers – Allowing users to get a feel of the product which allows them to specify what functionality they would like to see on the application.
- Real-time data to make quantifiable decisions and
- Increased responsiveness – Allowing for quick changes to the product to satisfy users.
Yahoo! Mail Beta
Yahoo! Mail was initially released in October 1997. Over the years, Yahoo! had made a number of significant changes to its service, from a Mail Forwarding Service release in 2002 to Yahoo! Mail Plus in the same year. In July 2004 Yahoo! acquired Oddpost, a strong webmail service offering that simulated Microsoft Outlook desktop e-mail client. Oddpost offered many new innovative features including: drag-and-drop support, right-click menus, RSS feeds, a preview pane and it also had incredible speed. Many of these features were incorporated into an updated Yahoo! Mail service.
In September 2005, Yahoo! began Beta testing a significantly enhanced version of their e-mail service based on Ajax scripting acquired from Oddpost. Then, in 2006, wide scale release of the new version was introduced along with plans of integrating Yahoo! Messenger functionality with the Beta service. In 2007, the new Yahoo! Mail came out of the Beta period. In September 2010, Yahoo! showed off the new mail service; however the latest release of Yahoo! Mail Beta was released at the end of 2010. The new Beta release promises users with greater speeds, SPAM protection, unlimited storage and mobility on any internet enabled device.
Yahoo! Mail vs. The Rest…
There are no official statistics comparing the user numbers of the different webmail service providers. However, according to Hitwise Intelligence, Hotmail remains the most popular web-based e-mail service provider in the world, followed by Yahoo! Mail and then Gmail.
Plans in the Pipeline…
With its recent partnership with Zynga Games in January of this year, Yahoo! Mail will easily allow their users to access any updates that come through Zynga Games. As for any other future updates, Yahoo! has not released any information on its future plans.