Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Micoblog: Enough With "Beta" Already

So, I don't know about you - but I'm getting a little tired of the word "Beta" when it comes to commercial software and especially with Web 2.0 applications.

Now, most people aren't in the technology field - but I am - and the word beta has a traditional meaning that's getting more and more obscured as time goes on. Traditionally, a piece of software was considered beta - when it was feature complete and undergoing the final bug fixes and performance tweaks.

Software was considered "shipping" software when companies put it out to the public and charged money for it.

That's all changed.

Companies now are putting up services like hotcakes labeled as "Beta" - which either means they're doing some market fishing and seeing if what they came up with will actually stick or not - or they expect customers to be their quality assurance team and find all the bugs.

Microsoft has labeled it's Windows 7 operating system as "Beta." I'm sure it's feature complete and is just getting the final bugs worked out...

Yeah, right!

Gmail has been in "Beta" for over 5 years now (and counting) - and yet they are charging money for it. What the??

It's time companies stepped up and grow a pair and put a "1.0" label on their stuff. Call it "shipping" - and stop being total wussies about it.

When they do have a release that's meant to get public opinion or to show off the future of what they're working on in the labs - that's terrific! Call it a "Public Preview" or "Pre-Release" or something else - but just please stop calling all your stuff "Beta" for 5 years. Same thing for you Web 2.0 folks - having a "closed beta" is fine - even a public "beta" period is good - but a product should not be in "beta" if:
  1. People are paying for it
  2. It's been more than 3 months since you made it live
  3. If you have more than 5,000 people using it
  4. If you advertise the new version as if it were shipping
  5. You're just doing it to create FUD in the marketplace to stop people from buying a competitor's product (Microsoft - take note!)

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