Bug free software. Think of the possibilities. Being able to run a program and have it execute consistently from platform to platform, and device to device. A rarely heard of event. The piece de resistance? Fewer updates because the app has been correctly tested and debugged before actually being released to the public.
The cloud service Bugsnag is taking a new approach to software development by focusing in on the cause of a program bug instead of the number of bugs found. Anyone who has taken an advanced programming course knows how compilers can apparently multiply errors on its own. Though that is actually not the case (yes, it’s your fault) the sheer number of errors is enough to frustrate and discourage any developer. The Bugsnag service brings debugging down to a more manageable level.
A consistent problem for developers is being able to identify errors across the browser, desktop, mobile, and backend locations. Identifying those bugs will save developers time and money in the testing phase because it will provide a complete view of the app regardless of on what device it is running. Bugsnag does tell you the number of occurrences of each error but breaks the numbers down by platform. Everyone has downloaded an app at one time or another that works fine on a smartphone but won’t get started on a tablet.
But it moves efficiency up another notch by doing something that the end users will likely not know what has happened. The bugs that are found are prioritized based on the number of users the bug is likely to affect. This is actually beneficial in getting an app up and running out the door because it is impossible for any company to produce a piece of software that will work on every computer or mobile device for every user. There are a million possibilities of how a keystroke combination or update to an add-in will affect the execution of a program. (There is something to be said for proprietary development systems.) The somewhat dirty little secret is that bugs must be prioritized to address the needs of the majority of users, otherwise no app would ever make it out the door.
Assessing the overall stability of a program before it is shipped is a critical part of the development process. Bugsnag helps that evaluation along by generating what they call a Software Stability Score.” That score will be different for each company depending on the internal quality assurance standards and the overall complexity of the application. This doesn’t imply that companies will release crappy apps but will recognize problems that are will rarely affect the majority of its users. The development will then be turned over to system maintenance teams that will continue to work on fixing the known bugs and receive customer feedback.
Bugsnag’s Software Stability Score helps companies decide how to meet the demands of the masses of impatient customers while releasing a program that will not crash (or crash the user’s system). One misconception about software is that it should act like a mechanical device, with a limited number of “moving parts.” Modern computer applications are extremely complex, and developers understand this level of complexity better than anyone else. Many of the bugs that exist in software will rarely, if ever, be encountered by users. For virtually every user there is a point where the presence of software bugs is acceptable – as long as they don’t affect our daily routine.
All this leads to the question of just how good is Bugsnag and who is currently using it to debug their software. First, investors are continuing to bankroll the company, a definite sign of confidence. They have received more than $17 million to continue their efforts. Among their customers are Pandora, Lyft, Shopify, and Airbnb. Shopify has more than 1,000 software engineers who are currently using Bugsnag, so if you recently have been complaining about Shopify you may now have the answer. (On the other hand, if you find it has run smoother, you know who you should give part of the credit to.)
The company has only been around a few years, and given their existing customer base and recent cash injection of $9 million, they have an idea that is resonating with developers large and small. We all want apps that are simple to understand and use but have all the features we need and want. Few programs can accomplish this state of nirvana without being prohibitively expensive, so addressing the bug problem before it gets into your hands is as close as developers can get.
Bugsnag is one of those companies that most users rarely hear about because they are doing the background dirty work necessary for your favorite companies and apps to publicly shine and get all those great reviews. Like the apps their customers develop, they’re not perfect but continue working on getting better. As an end user, you should hope Bugsnag and companies like them will continue being successful and popular among the development community.