Re: why use version numbers at all?
>>"Version numbers are an artefact of the pre-internet era way of doing software development."
Spoken by someone that has done a very narrow range of software development or none at all..
>>"With today's continuous release and cloud platforms (github, etc) they should just dump out the version numbers completely and go for YYYYMMDD-style date stamps."
Out of all the possible reasons for versioning software this has to be the absolute least useful information and format.
Software versioning is used by other software developers, not the end-user (except possibly to identify & report bugs/problem with a specific version).
Software versioning is important if one is maintaining other software packages that may have to be backwards/forwards compatible and may take a long time to release and get certified for use.
The concept that every piece of software is constantly undergoing change and release with every other piece of software is just plain idiotic, not to mention wasteful of developer's time.
Relating the mechanism (continuous releases) to why version numbers are important is meaningless.
You can call me old-fashioned, but I'm not the one rewriting the same code every other week because someone decided to change the story-board. I have better things to do with my time. Get the requirements right the first time..
>>"e.g. "release 20180416-S" has a lot more information included in the version than "release 4.15.whatever-rc3" - it indicates right there in the name WHEN it was the last release and whether it was a Stable or Release Candidate."
Who the fuck cares when a software package was released? Again useless information. Your statement indicates, that you really haven't a clue as to why / how version numbers came into existence.
Obviously, you have never written software for an embedded system where everthing is not always upgradeable in the field, nor should it be.
Not all software developed is the weeny-wanky web-based crap apps used on phones who's only real purpose is to mine your personal data for free.
For those who didn't quit reading (;tldr). Thank you.