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Editorial Software

Why Does Beta Last So Long? 258

Carl Bialik writes "Noting that Google News has been labeled 'beta' for nearly three years, and Microsoft's antispyware program for nearly a year, the Wall Street Journal looks at why 'beta' lasts so long these days. The article mentions the usefulness of getting the masses to test the product, but also notices another possible reason: 'Betas also have become a marketing device in a fiercely competitive industry, allowing software and Internet firms to release new products or services sooner and cultivate early buzz. Betas, which once had been quietly distributed, are trumpeted in press releases and at news conferences. "I deplore it as a consumer; I admire it as a marketing professional," said Peter Sealey, a marketing professor at the University of California at Berkeley and former chief marketing officer at Coca-Cola Co. "I can't come up with anything else in the entire marketing world where marketers knowingly introduce a flawed or inadequate product [and] it helps grow your user base." '"
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Why Does Beta Last So Long?

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  • by Knight Thrasher ( 766792 ) * on Monday November 28, 2005 @04:05PM (#14132385) Journal
    The reason people like products released as Betas, is because it's the most honest software companies ever get about their products. It's pretty much as simple as that; Beta implies under-constant-improvement, and even I as a consumer don't mind imperfect software, as long as the company will at least advise me it's been released in Beta - under construction.
    • by mmkkbb ( 816035 ) on Monday November 28, 2005 @04:07PM (#14132414) Homepage Journal
      The acceptance of 'beta' as 'final' by many consumers is a programmer's dream. The need for a product is diminished, as consumers will forgive anything from lack of polish to lack of functionality and lack of coherence. All those things you're too lazy to fix can be swept away since it's still in beta!
      • by at_slashdot ( 674436 ) on Monday November 28, 2005 @04:53PM (#14132776)
        On the other hand there are people that don't use some software because it's beta, so I guess there's a karma: you gain some customers that don't complain about the product and you lose some that will never try as long as the product is beta (depending on the product and customers there might be more won than lost, but in such a cases probably didn't matter from the beginning if the product was declared final or not).
      • Being a programmer, I like participating in my favorite products' forums. Like, I report a bug, and a couple of days later, it's "fixed in CVS". I only have to recompile, and voila.

        Anyway, one thing that is very needed, is the frequent release of products (release early, release often), which is why I love looking at the latest beta's of a product.

        However, what I wouldn't like, is having to widthstand an awful beta full of bugs, specially if i can't contact the programmer.
        And it's even more frustrating if said "beta" is actually a finished product, like this one [microsoft.com] or this one [msn.com].

        Haven't you guys been frustrated by the stupid MSN window re-scrolling whenever your buddy types something and you haven't finished reading what you missed? It's a nightmare!

        This is why I like beta. At least I expect bugs to be present, and I'm ASSURED that, since it's beta, those bugs will be fixed soon.

        And beta is also where the newest features are implemented, and I can say "wow! you rock!" I think Beta is the best part of a software development.

        So, it depends. Beta, for open source products, is a dream come true. For closed source products, it's a nightmare.
      • Not really. If Google News was crap, nobody would use it, "beta" or not. I am totally not convinced slapping a word on your logo makes people more accepting of rubbish.

        I really don't know why GN is still labelled as beta given that it's not particularly buggy, probably they just forgot to remove it?

      • Which gets rid of a lot of risk for the company. Apple released the Newton before the software had all the kinks out of it. My understanding of that story is that after some work, the Newton actually worked pretty well- a lot of people apparently swore by the thing. But by the time that happened, the Newton had the inescapable air of failure around it, the buzz was negative and they couldn't come back.

        You could imagine how, say, Google rolling out a product prematurely could be bad if it fails. It would br

      • The acceptance of 'beta' as 'final' by many consumers is a programmer's dream. The need for a product is diminished, as consumers will forgive anything from lack of polish to lack of functionality and lack of coherence. All those things you're too lazy to fix can be swept away since it's still in beta!

        Or will customers simply redefine 'beta' to mean 'final' and whine and complain until they get the same service and support anyway? 'beta' is after all just a concept, a nametag that we've placed on a product,
      • While your idea may be true for some** companies, I am not as cynical about betas coming from good companies.

        What is happening here is the public has gotten used to software development in the form of the waterfall model [wikipedia.org]. They understand that it takes time to design, produce, and test software. They have become accustomed to updates during the maintainance phase of a product's lifecycle. <CarAnalogy premise="Software versions are like year models">

        The source of the misunderstanding is that the

    • by jabelar ( 913707 ) on Monday November 28, 2005 @04:09PM (#14132434)
      Well, there is nothing wrong with Betas, except if their is no real intention of a production/stable release in a reasonable timeframe. Something in Beta for three years should raise questions. The implication is tha by tagging something as Beta, software/service suppliers can absolve themselves of responsibility for defects. This is sort of like an even further erosion of the standard EULA weaknesses regarding bugs and defects. Software that is in Beta indefinitely should be called "abandoned".
    • As long as when I "upgrade", it's an actual upgrade, and not a totally new install. I hate having six different entries in "Add/Remove Programs" for a single program.
      • Yeah, I was starting to get irritated at Firefox over that. That, and you can't uninstall the old ones because it'll break all of them.
      • by Threni ( 635302 ) on Monday November 28, 2005 @04:20PM (#14132586)
        > I hate having six different entries in "Add/Remove Programs" for a single
        > program.

        I had that with Firefox. I deleted the oldest version and it deleted all of them. Uh...thanks.

        Also, I had 2 dummy labels in Gmail which I can't delete - it just ignores me, as does Google support.

        Frankly, standards are so low these days (software and hardware) that it's hardly necessary to stick a beta warning - I don't expect stuff to work, and I expect to have to explain what's wrong to clueless idiots in shops when I take the stuff back. Fortunately, they're so used to it too that it's rarely hard to get your money back - they know you're going to have to just take your chances with another one anyway, so why worry about it?
    • I think it's more about instant gratification. Developing a high quality product takes time. Releasing a beta panders to the impatitent and provides a large testing base for low cost to the developer and often at no cost to the user. Everyone's as happy as they're going to get.
  • by altoz ( 653655 ) on Monday November 28, 2005 @04:06PM (#14132401)
    seriously, why wouldn't you do this with dedicated gamers AND still charge them money for the xbox?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    It allows for the company to release the product and have it utilized by the public, but if something were to break, they still have the cruch of "well, it is in beta" to fall back on.
    • by BoomerSooner ( 308737 ) on Monday November 28, 2005 @04:21PM (#14132602) Homepage Journal
      That's the truth. My company QA's our software but in new routines (moderatly complex) we were having bugs that wouldn't be triggered for months. To eliminate the confusion of our customers on our new product features all new modules/reports/etc... come out as beta for at least the first month. It's the "take it with a grain of salt" model. I've found our customers like accessing new features (especially the ones they specifically request) earlier and have significantly less anger when a small glitch appears. Programers aren't perfect and end-user design docs are almost impossible to get 100% correct. Beta is a happy medium that should not be abused. That being said Google abuses the shit out of it. However, when you don't pay a dime for their services, can you really complain? (The answer is yes, with very little affect.)
  • maybe... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JavaLord ( 680960 ) on Monday November 28, 2005 @04:07PM (#14132408) Journal
    why 'beta' lasts so long these days

    Because companies are being more realistic with project life cycles?
    • Or maybe because the entire idea of a 'release schedule' is going away (at least for the open source projects). If a team releases version X, and then 50 security updates over the following 24 months, when was the product really released? Would you say that it was released 51 times? At the very least, marketing-driven releases don't apply.
  • about that (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sedyn ( 880034 ) on Monday November 28, 2005 @04:07PM (#14132413)
    "I can't come up with anything else in the entire marketing world where marketers knowingly introduce a flawed or inadequate product [and] it helps grow your user base." Doesn't this describe the computer industry in general?
    • Doesn't this describe the computer industry in general?

      Actually, given the guy's previous job, I was thinking that it pretty much described "New Coke".

      (I kid! I know they thought New Coke was good.)

    • Re:about that (Score:3, Insightful)

      by timeOday ( 582209 )
      "Flawed" and "inadequate" are relative terms. Take the most reliable, feature-laden car from 50 years ago and release it today. You'd be laughed off the street for its unreliability and lack of "basic" features. A Tune-up and new set of tires every 10K miles, and no seatbelts!? You must be joking!

      Sometimes a product falls well below the norm and deserves criticism. But when somebody slams an entire industry comprised of thousands of separate companies, it's a pretty good sign they're just a whiner wit

  • Beta = safety (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mbelly ( 827938 ) on Monday November 28, 2005 @04:07PM (#14132415)
    If a product is labelled as beta, and they have to completely overhaul it or a severe security flaw is found. Any 'damages' can be shrugged off as "This was only a beta, use at your own risk".

    ~Matt
  • where marketers knowingly introduce a flawed or inadequate product...

    Heck, that's been Microsoft's business model for 25 years!
  • by Concern ( 819622 ) * on Monday November 28, 2005 @04:08PM (#14132420) Journal
    We thought we would finish this sooner... but we didn't.

    Eventually we kind of gave up trying, but we're too nice to just take it off the website?

    Who would have thought?

    Or... my personal favorite:

    "Beta" as a kludge to workaround users who don't read disclaimers and get hopping mad when things don't work. I swear that accounts for a big percentage of the people who do this.
  • This is a public beta for First Post, and I'd appreciate it if you could report any placement-related or other bugs.
  • by sterno ( 16320 ) on Monday November 28, 2005 @04:08PM (#14132426) Homepage
    The thing is, most software that we get is flawed and inadequate in some respect. Labeling the software as being beta reduces people's expectations. Thus when there is a serious flaw, the customer doesn't feel that irritated with it because it was beta. If it was a released official product, then they might have more room to criticize.
    • "The thing is, most software that we get is flawed and inadequate in some respect."

      i.e. Beta is a fairly accurate description of the quality of all modern software. Far from thinking Google are weird, we should ask why other applications don't have "Beta" on their packaging.
  • You know, those tools you might work or live with who think that kmowing about and running the 'latest' software is some kind of life goal. Gleefully runnig bug-laden betas crashing their systems and reducing productivity.

    I must be some kind of throw-back geek. I won't touch it until it ships. I don't do bug-testing for free...and no...none of these 'betas' are really that interesting anyway.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 28, 2005 @04:09PM (#14132431)
    Alphas have to work too hard, plus they have to think too hard all the time. They don't get to laugh and play. And Gammas and Deltas wear those ugly jumpsuits. I'm so glad I'm a Beta! Aren't you glad you're a Beta, too?
  • I'm curious (Score:5, Funny)

    by Ohreally_factor ( 593551 ) on Monday November 28, 2005 @04:09PM (#14132436) Journal
    How's that Windows XP beta been going? The OS X beta I've been involved with has been pretty good. We're up to 10.4.3b, and I'm confident we'll see an RC before the 10.5 beta comes out. =)
  • The software... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wpiman ( 739077 ) on Monday November 28, 2005 @04:10PM (#14132447)
    mentioned in the article is free- both MS anti-spyware and Google News. I think this is a little bit different if it is a product you pay for. Many people had problems recently with Civilization IV and the XBOX 360. Being paying customers- these people have been heard screaming in various message boards.

    Drug companies do beta test their drugs. Usually- they pay the recipient to take them.

    The point is- you get what you pay for.

    • Re:The software... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by spejsklark ( 913641 )
      I find it strange that it wasn't emphasized more in the article, (nor in other /. comments.)
      This is the main reason. Free software (from for-profit companies) has not been around that long.

      Support costs money you're not getting from non-paying customers.
    • libraries (Score:5, Informative)

      by bcrowell ( 177657 ) on Monday November 28, 2005 @05:56PM (#14133282) Homepage
      From my perspective as a small-time OSS applications programmer, one of the big issues is the stability of libraries. I have one app [lightandmatter.com], for instance, written in Perl, that I've been labeling as stable for years now, and yet within the last six months or so, I noticed that it had started crashing occasionally with a segfault inside one of the libraries it uses (Perl/Tk). Apparently the new version of the library that I've got installed now dereferences a null pointer now and then. The library is OSS, so sure, theoretically I could track down the problem and submit a patch. But realistically that's not going to happen (huge codebase, I haven't programmed in C or used a debugger in 10 years, ...). (Yes, I've tried to submit a usable bug report, but I've failed, due to my lack of C skills and the difficulty of reproducing the bug.)

      Whatever bad things you might say about proprietary software, one good thing in terms of reliability is that it's typically statically linked. That means someone who sells a proprietary app can test with a particular version of a library, and then just keep on shipping the app with that version linked in. If a later version of the library comes along that they do want to switch to, they can test it carefully, and then roll it out. But as an OSS programmer, you're at the mercy of your users -- they could install any version of a library, and if it doesn't work right, they consider it to be your fault.

  • "I can't come up with anything else in the entire marketing world where marketers knowingly introduce a flawed or inadequate product [and] it helps grow your user base."

    Coke was the first to market, I strongly doubt that Coke as it is now was exactly the same as it was when it was first released (Cocaine anyone?).

    The first to market is usually the one who wins. It is rare that the market leader falls off their perch (unless they make an error, like "New Coke", which nearly cost them their dominant position)
  • by Chromodromic ( 668389 ) on Monday November 28, 2005 @04:12PM (#14132474)
    Because most programmers are male, and most male programmers have a fear of commit.
  • For a momement I thought the article was about Betamax... (Which I thought was conclusively dead.)
    • Re:Err, not VHS? (Score:3, Informative)

      by yobbo ( 324595 )
      I still can't figure out how ICQ didn't get a mention in the /. article summary! That's been in beta as long as beta has been around.
  • Google haven't figured out how to make a bunch of money on things like Gmail yet, so, because they ALSO don't want the support hassles if something goes wrong, they mark their product as "beta".

    Because, "beta" means "hey, don't bug us if it broke, it's beta, remember?"
    • Google haven't figured out how to make a bunch of money on things like Gmail yet, so, because they ALSO don't want the support hassles if something goes wrong, they mark their product as "beta".

      Gmail has been making money from the beginning. Ever notice those ads on the side of your email?

      Google News is the hard one. The actual content is provided by other companies who are also trying to make money off of it. If Google pushes too hard to get their ads in, the companies providing the content will cut them o
      • Gmail has been making money from the beginning. Ever notice those ads on the side of your email?

        But, are they making ENOUGH money from that to cover the cost of creating and maintaining the service? Now, I know that neither you or I can answer that question authoritatively :)

        Perhaps a better way to make my point is that google aren't ready to put their full support team behind the product, so they market it is an "as is" product, and call it "beta" by way of covering their butts.

  • Beta is there to test a product and with Quality Assurance in place, errors get found and fed back to development, leading to more design and implementation steps, which then go back to QA, which find more errors ad nauseam.

    Oh, and if it's not QA that comes up with a problem, then (depending on what you do) the security team raises some concerns, and it's back to the drawing board again.

    Sometimes I wonder what there are still any releases ...
  • What about ICQ? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 28, 2005 @04:14PM (#14132511)
    It's been in beta for nearly 10 years ;)

    Part of the reason is that they can reserve the option of making it non-beta in the future and charge for it.
  • Google News (Score:3, Interesting)

    by FuturePastNow ( 836765 ) on Monday November 28, 2005 @04:14PM (#14132517)
    I remember reading an article on Wired [wired.com] a long time ago about why Google News will forever be beta: it's all about money and copyrights. As long as it is beta, Google can claim it makes no profit from Google News. As soon as it gets "released," though, every newspaper with a lawyer will try to shut it down.
    • Re:Google News (Score:4, Insightful)

      by winkydink ( 650484 ) * <sv.dude@gmail.com> on Monday November 28, 2005 @04:17PM (#14132547) Homepage Journal
      Any good forensic accountant can determine whether or not Google is generating a profit from Google News. The term "beta" provides no legal protection in that regard.
      • Re:Google News (Score:3, Insightful)

        by damiam ( 409504 )
        Google's obviously not turning a profit now because there're no ads. Google doesn't want to officially "release" Google News until they've figured out how to make it profitable without legal problems. That's the problem.
        • Google News is a web site which does nothing more than link to other news sources, reproducing tiny portions of a story.

          Slashdot is a web site which does nothing more than link to other news sources, reproducing tiny portions of a story and serving ads alongside it.

          If Slashdot manages not to get sued, why is Google News stuck in this legal quandary you made up?
          • /. has you write the blurb with a link. Google News takes the lead paragraphs whole cloth. Yes some people do the same for /. submission but then that falls somewhat under fair use. For just systematically scrapping initial paragraph and repackaging it the water is murkey.
            • Google also maintains a cache (non-beta, might I add) which serves up entire web pages that Google keeps on hard drives for as long as it likes -- and if you're a webmaster you have to opt out of the program. The cache is ad-supported inasmuch as it is a part of Google's ad-supported web search. How does Google get away with that?
        • Yep, that's what people usually say about this, but it doesn't make much sense since Gmail has had ads since forever and it's still Beta!
    • Re:Google News (Score:5, Interesting)

      by generic-man ( 33649 ) * on Monday November 28, 2005 @05:11PM (#14132923) Homepage Journal
      Your argument makes no sense whatsoever.

      Google Images [google.com]: no ads. Not beta.

      Gmail [google.com]: Ads. Beta.

      Google News [google.com]: No ads. Beta.

      Flickr [flickr.com]: Beta. Pro accounts cost money.

      Google News is in beta because it hasn't been improved in three years. "Beta" doesn't mean that a product is not distributed for profit; it just means that its creator doesn't want to hear griping from its user base.
  • The reason, in the case of the two examples given, is because they both have an incredible pressure on them to work properly and be secure. Meanwhile there is very little added benefit in going from their current beta status to production status because people are already using them in full force.

    Not all betas last forever, but if you can release your product without the accountability of releasing your product, then it makes perfect sense. I don't really see it as a marketing ploy because I don't see any
  • Welcome to the internet, things move slowly here, and always have...but wait until Internet 2.0 (currently in beta) then things will move really fast!

    (yea, yea, I know there is an internet2, it's a JOKE OK?!)
  • "I can't come up with anything else in the entire marketing world where marketers knowingly introduce a flawed or inadequate product [and] it helps grow your user base."

    I had never thought about it that way before, but if you think about it, how many times have you used software and it crashed and you got upset. Now on the flip side, how many times have you downloaded a buggy beta test software and had it crash and been really upset? Interesting concept, someone releases something sub-par, we test it, they

  • Betas are indeed helpful to consumers. It allows them to get an early look at a product and guide its final look and feel and feature set. This allows the company to develop a better product and consumers get a product that more suits there needs.

    While it's true that using beta software is not for everyone, there are many users who do and make this symbiotic relationship worthwhile. As a software developer for enterprise customers, I see this play out with great success all the time.
  • I can (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TheRealMindChild ( 743925 ) on Monday November 28, 2005 @04:18PM (#14132568) Homepage Journal
    "I can't come up with anything else in the entire marketing world where marketers knowingly introduce a flawed or inadequate product [and] it helps grow your user base."

    Think Sega dreamcast! Sure, it isn't software, but the flaw that shipped with it that allowed you to boot CD-rs was what sold most of those systems
  • My dad was a bit of a gamer in the Apple II days-- and every once in a while, he'd spot a bug. Being a programmer, he knew how to document bugs, and because of this, he belonged to a couple of beta test programs-- Omnitrend's Universe II, for one. Every so often, we'd get new releases in the mail, and were told to test the hell out of them. The games were usually feature incomplete, though whether this was by design ("We'd really prefer that you concentrate your efforts on testing this feature) or by omissi
  • by miller60 ( 554835 ) on Monday November 28, 2005 @04:35PM (#14132643) Homepage
    When Google Base was launched, it included cross-site scripting vulnerabilities [netcraft.com] that could have allowed an attacker to steal cookies and other information from users - which is no small matter now that Google has consolidated services such as AdWords and AdSense under a single login. The flaw was discovered by UK security researcher Jim Ley, who also found security holes in the Yahoo Maps beta [jibbering.com] and argues that betas are often unveiled without adequate security testing.

    As for Google News, one reason it remains in beta is that it has no business model. If Google tries to put ads on Google News, the newspapers and magazines whose stories are listed on Google News would probably file lawsuits, alleging that Google is trying to profit from their content. Google's emergence is a threat to the major media outlets that represent much of the content on Google News, and some folks in the news business believe it will remain in beta untilthis problem is settled.

  • I tried to check out Slashdot, and get a 503 Service Unavailable error. It finally comes back, and what's the story...

    Why Does Beta Last So Long?

    Sometimes, the universe is pretty cool.

  • It's well known that Google News is in beta because the company cannot make money from it. Once it starts making a profit its "fair use" defense will disappear and the lawyers from all of those news sources will start suing it dry. It'll be in beta forever, or at least until they find a way to make a profit off of it without risking a lawsuit.
  • "I can't come up with anything else in the entire marketing world where marketers knowingly introduce a flawed or inadequate product [and] it helps grow your user base."

    I guess he wasn't around for new Coke [snopes.com].

  • I think it's because labeling something 'beta' makes it so that a company can release flawed software publicly without the hassle of providing tech support for it.
    Most software released as 'gold' these days should actually be marketed as 'beta', because that's what it is. And now that 'beta' has become a marketing word, I think we'll see more and more of this practice.
  • by CDPatten ( 907182 ) on Monday November 28, 2005 @04:42PM (#14132689) Homepage
    Well sometimes it is so they don't get sued. Google News has been in beta for 4 years, and the consensus is that it will stay that way for years to come.

    From this article [wired.com]:
    "The reason: The minute Google News runs paid advertising of any sort it could face a torrent of cease-and-desist letters from the legal departments of newspapers, which would argue that "fair use" doesn't cover lifting headlines and lead paragraphs verbatim from their articles. Other publishers might simply block users originating from Google News, effectively snuffing it out. "
    • why would these online publications ever want google to quit freely advertising their products. their ad revenue would be related to that of google news'. google news is a value-adding party, not a competitor. any leagal action would be out of spite that google makes any money off of someone else's publication.

      i'm sure this will get shot down, but ever since the google portal came about, i'd think that slashdot has been getting a good amount more traffic than before. hell, anything from the google porta
  • I hear the next version of Windows after Longhorn is being called Beta. I guess they figured why the hell not.

    PS on a related note Service Packs will be referred to as product "Enhancements" on that version. I fondly call them little dutch boy pluging holes in the Dike.

  • by 1zenerdiode ( 777004 ) on Monday November 28, 2005 @04:45PM (#14132713)
    - Superior picture quality and signal-to-noise vs. VHS
    - Widespread adoption by studios and professionals (Beta SP)
    - Convenient smaller-sized cassette
    - Mfr'd and licensed by Sony, a company known for their progressive stance regarding consumer rights.
  • "I can't come up with anything else in the entire marketing world where marketers knowingly introduce a flawed or inadequate product [and] it helps grow your user base."

    Talk about silly nonsense. In previous marketing terminology, this was called "last year's model." Marketers have ALWAYS used product improvements as a basis for selling essentially the same product again. My '06 Honda Odyssey has newfangled headlamps. Big whoop. Was the previous model "inadequate" because it had a different type?

    Beta

  • I'd much rathar have a product that is unfinished, and gets slowly finished in a way that the featured that get implemented are those that users actually need and want than a "finished" product that has features that a marketing department decides that I need.
  • I wonder if there are any compelling legal or fiscal reasons to keep software as "Beta" for a long time. Could beta software have less liability than production software? Does it matter in corporate accounting if the software is beta or production? I also had read once that Google News is still beta because of potential legal problems around republishing of the news content which for some reason didn't fall under Fair Use.
  • Well... aside from marketing reasons and the like, Beta periods are longer these days because the software is typically more complex as well. You'd like a good beta audience to test your code breadth-wise and depth-wise, which may be difficult given some products (think about Microsoft Office and all the features and combinations of features you'd want tested).

    Plus, there's always getting your product out in Beta form to let some air out of competitors' offerings. If you can get your game out in a pretty
  • Perhaps the question is not, "why do betas last so long, these days?" Perhaps the question should be, "why didn't betas always last this long?"

    Seriously here, how much buggy software might have been avoided if manufacturers had been more concerned about the final product?

    As a side-note: while the majority of software has experienced lengthening betas over the past few years, there is one market that has gone the polar-opposite: games. Ever notice how many patches come out for games, these days? Or ho
  • by ServerIrv ( 840609 ) on Monday November 28, 2005 @05:09PM (#14132909)
    The premise behind a beta is to get the product into the customer's hands to increase the number of testers to improve the product. The OSS model of development uses this as a framework. Although versions are released as "final", it is understood that it can and will be changed quickly if any problems arise. I personally have gotten into several OSS while they where beta and still use them now.

    I do find it frustrating when paid-for services are in perpetual beta. If a OSS is broke, I haven't paid anyone any money, and I "could" fix it myself if I wanted.
  • A software beta wont necessarily make you ill, but it may make you sick.
    However a foodstuff (loosly stated) can make you both.
  • free as in beer anyway. And neither is flawed or inadequate compared to their competition. So what's the problem? People are complaining that they want their free stuff to be perfect?
  • I can't come up with anything else in the entire marketing world where marketers knowingly introduce a flawed or inadequate product [and] it helps grow your user base

    This has got to be the stupidest quote ever! Flawed products are constantly introduced and grow user bases . . . in areas where there is not already an established consumer base or need. To go for the prosaic example, look at George Foreman's damn grills. They were introduced and other similar products had not yet hit the mainstream. Where th

  • Say... did anyone ever actually manage to use up all their Gmail invites? Every time I got close, they gave me more. Did they start everyone out with a small number on purpose, so they'd feel "special"? Just a hypothesis. I have no proof.
  • Because it's cheap is the bottom line.

    Why Specifically?
    • Beta's don't typically get tech support. - Meaning no need to reply to email's, phone, etc. on the topic. Also no need to train support staff. This means lower costs. Cheap is good.
    • Nonbinding review - We all know reviews are critical to a products success. Slashdot regularly posts reviews of hardware and software (there's a new laptop HD review just a few below this topic). With beta's, they don't stick, because "it's still in development". A com
  • That I remember anyway was Linus Torvalds, because he didn't want people to use Linux 0.2 - 0.9 as production-ready, yet everyone knew it was at least as good as the "production" software everyone else was selling. Better than minix.

    It started a (not good) trend... there were already too many excuses and justifications available to sell or publish bad software (including open source) and now there are more. How many freshmeat project web pages include the text "This software is beta" which the programm

  • having a web product in "beta" state is simply the new fashion for web2 apps.
    it gives a "cool" look, like "beware, you are testing and unfinished product" and at the same time avoids harsh complains about bugs because... "you are testing and unfinished product"
  • Betas in general take so long because the first 90% of a project takes 10% of the time, and the last 10% takes 90% of the time...
  • I think the move toward releasing beta( of course, I say beta software, what they are really releasing is Alpha software (how many "beta" programs have you used that have not had any features added?) ) software by companies is a move to "embrace and extend" the open development style that has served the F/OSS development communities. While some may argue that they are missing the most important ideological aspects of what makes F/OSS software great, I think that companies are finding that by allowing users

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