What is it?
Everyone needs to keep track of edits, whether you’re working on an essay or part of a team trying to remember which edit your boss wants… but no one can find it. (Keep your desktop tidy. I need to do the same. Using your desktop as a catchall is a bad idea.)
Otherwise known as “revision control”, it’s management of changes – to documents, computer programs, large websites – and is most simply implemented by adding a number to the initial work (eg. 1) and naming subsequent edits with 2, 3, 4, etc.
But this is if it’s kept simple. The most complex systems for editing/revision/management control can be found in software development, where a large team can be working on documents or files, and also need to be able to see any changes any team member makes to the files. It’s also handy to prevent overwriting. Allowing for the ability to revert to previous documents or revisions, this is critical in allowing editors to track edits, and defend against accusations of vandalism and spam. It could potentially be used also to track and re enact bugging behavior to resolve and tackle problems (“99 little bugs in the code, 99 little bugs in the code… take one down, patch it around”, and you end up with 127 little bugs in the code. Little blighters multiply pretty quickly).
It is also sometimes necessary to run multiple copies of the software, where one copy is “working copy”, with bugs fixed but no new features, while the second version is the one where features are debuted and worked on.
Whether simple or complex, documents or multiple copies of data, the key to no confusion is to utilize revision control as rightly as possible.