when did beta become cool?

Why is it that the new rage is to produce a service, either for free or for profit, release it to the public, and then call it “beta” for years to come?


I think Google pioneered this stupid idea, since every service they provide prominently displays its “beta” status, yet GMail has existed for how long now? same with Google Groups, and Froogle. Flickr is next in line as well, and they have no excuse. In my opinion, you’re product is no longer in “beta” as soon as you start requesting people pay for your product.

 And then the herd follows and now everything is beta. Microsoft does it now with their Anti-Anti-Spyware package, and I am sure any day good ‘ol innovative Steve Jobs is going to release his new “iBeta” program, which will do nothing except redraw your screen white and put a gay little pressure sensitive rotary dial on your screen.

This site is beta too. Which is why I still don’t have a spell checker on here 

  1. I think a lot of the complaints about the perpetual beta state of services like Flickr and Gmail miss the point: the “beta” stamp simply means that the service (it’s not an application) is in flux. Because we really don’t have a good word for this (well, we do have a better term, but “Under Construction” is *so* 1995…), we borrow from the closest cousin: Boxed, released software, where “beta” usually means feature complete but missing polish.

    I don’t think the idea of “releases” of services like Gmail and Flickr make sense, though, so the beta term is kind of dumb. A service evolves over time, fixing bugs and accreting features as people’s usage evolves. This is what “beta” indicates: not the the service isn’t usable now, but that it is undergoing evolution.

  2. yeah, but what product/service isn’t in some state of flux? no one creates a product/service and never intends to ever add new features or improvements. So really everything is beta I guess

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