QA is Valuable When Releasing is Expensive

In 1992, at my first job, to release the software, someone took a few days to make 100’s of floppies, and then we all stuffed envelopes so we could mail them all over the world. Our customers were banks who only adopted new versions carefully. Releasing was expensive, so releasing with a critical bug was unthinkable. It’s not surprising that the person who did the most QA work was one of the leaders of the company who was a former customer and had deep domain expertise. To help him, we built custom test automation tools.

These days, releasing is so cheap, that it feels like software companies are fine with releasing a bug. Between the time that Apple sent out iPhone 15’s and the time most arrived, they released iOS 17.0.2, which fixed a critical bug transferring data. Apple has a support doc showing how to recover, so we know it happened to customers, but most people were guided by the installer to update their OS, and it was fine, I guess.

That’s an OS release, which used to be hard. Meanwhile, the cost of releasing a web app has been near zero for a while, and it’s a joke in the industry that the customers are the QA team.

If I were looking to do QA in this environment, I’d seek out software that is expensive to release.