Version labeling is out of control

Anybody who spends time trying new free software applications and distributions will soon notice that version numbering and labeling is next to meaningless. These days, versioning rarely gives an accurate idea of the state of development, except relative to other builds of the same project. It is simply a label that distinguishes one build from another. That's too bad, because a properly labeled release can give users a sense of how advanced the build actually is.

The problem is not that several different versioning systems exist. Once you realize there are variations, you should have no trouble picking up on the fact that the odd-numbered GNOME releases are development builds and even-numbered ones are official releases. Nor are you likely to mistake KOffice 1.9.95-4 for a late version of KOffice 1.0 for more than a moment before you realize that it is an early version 2.0 build. Anyone familiar enough with free software to be trying the latest builds knows that getting all of a large project's developers to agree on anything besides their mistrust of Microsoft is impossible. We learn to allow for idiosyncrasies.