Release Early, Release Often

Thursday, July 22, 2010

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Over the next few months, we are going to be rolling out a new release process to accelerate the pace at which Google Chrome stable releases become available. Running under ideal conditions, we will be looking to release a new stable version about once every six weeks, roughly twice as often as we do today.

So why the change? We have three fundamental goals in reducing the cycle time:
  • Shorten the release cycle and still get great features in front of users when they are ready
  • Make the schedule more predictable and easier to scope
  • Reduce the pressure on engineering to “make” a release
The first goal is fairly straightforward, given our pace of development. We have new features coming out all the time and do not want users to have to wait months before they can use them. While pace is important to us, we are all committed to maintaining high quality releases — if a feature is not ready, it will not ship in a stable release.

The second goal is about implementing good project management practice. Predictable fixed duration development periods allow us to determine how much work we can do in a fixed amount of time, and makes schedule communication simple. We basically wanted to operate more like trains leaving Grand Central Station (regularly scheduled and always on time), and less like taxis leaving the Bronx (ad hoc and unpredictable).

The third goal is about taking the pressure off software engineers to finish features in a single release cycle. Under the old model, when we faced a deadline with an incomplete feature, we had three options, all undesirable: (1) Engineers had to rush or work overtime to complete the feature by the deadline, (2) We delayed the release to complete that feature (which affected other un-related features), or (3) The feature was disabled and had to wait approximately 3 months for the next release. With the new schedule, if a given feature is not complete, it will simply ride on the the next release train when it’s ready. Since those trains come quickly and regularly (every six weeks), there is less stress.

So, get ready to see us pick up the pace and for new features to reach the stable channel more quickly. Since we are going to continue to increment our major versions with every new release (i.e. 6.0, 7.0, 8.0, 9.0) those numbers will start to move a little faster than before. Please don’t read too much into the pace of version number changes - they just mean we are moving through release cycles and we are geared up to get fresher releases into your hands!

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