What Is A Software Bug?

Bugs are there in almost every program out there. In critical cases, they can break down the user experience.


A software bug is a flaw that prevents a software program from working correctly. This might result in the software acting in unexpected ways, producing incorrect output, or crashing the system. Furthermore, a bug in a program that deals with sensitive information often compromises security.

These software bugs could creep into a program during the development phase or after its release. Possible causes include development flaws, incompatibility with a hardware component or the operating system, etc. When a program contains too many bugs, it is known as “buggy.”

To detect and remove bugs from a software application, companies conduct debugging during the testing phase. Therefore, the testing phase is crucial for the software development life cycle. And often, developers spend more time and resources on testing a program than its development.

In the IT industry, companies hire people specifically to find out and report bugs. Such professionals, called “testers,” help optimize the program before its release. Certain big projects involve multiple phases of testing to minimize the number of bugs. Sometimes, users also contribute to this task as part of beta testing.

Moreover, the amount and nature of bugs play a big role in determining a software’s success. Almost always, an optimized program fares better and attracts more users than its buggy counterpart. However, applications that are buggy at release can improve the experience with the necessary patches and hotfixes.

Tackling bugs, especially those that make the system vulnerable, is a big priority for companies including Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc. That is why they run bounty programs to incentivize advanced users to locate bugs in their services in exchange for a reward.

Notable incidents where bug caused major Issue

Knight Capital Stock Trading (2012)

It is an incident that perfectly fits into the metaphor of “burning money.” Knight Capital’s debacle resulted in the company losing $440 million in just 30 minutes. A technician’s error in copying the right code in one of the stock trading firm’s servers was the reason for this. By the end of the next day, the company’s stock value had gone down by around 75%, and it barely managed to stay in business after raising funds from investors.

NASA Climate Orbiter (1998)

Near the turn of the century, NASA sent an unmanned spacecraft named “Climate Orbiter” to study the red planet. However, the space organization lost all contact with it due to a simple bug caused by human error. The problem that spelled the end for the $125 million space probe was its failure to differentiate between imperial units into metric units.

Ariane 5 Flight 501 (1996)

The Ariane 5 Flight 501 was a spacecraft from the European Space Agency to help scientists better understand Earth’s magnetic properties. However, this purpose went down the drain when, within a minute of launch, Ariane 5 turned upside down and exploded in flames. The $370 million accident came from a software bug on the onboard computer, which tried to put 64-bit values in a 16-bit variable.

If you like this simple explainer, check out our Short Bytes section. We take complex tech topics and break them into short, easy-to-understand articles.

Priye Rai

Priye Rai

Priye is a tech writer at Fossbytes, who writes about gaming and anything remotely related to tech, including smartphones, apps, OTT, etc. He prefers to be called a "video game journalist" and grimaces when he doesn't get to be "Player 1." If you want to talk about games or send any feedback, drop him a mail at [email protected]
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