Google: ‘Beta’ Means What We Say It Means

25 Sep

gmail logoGoogle is probably the most prolific distributor of “beta” software in the world. Pingdom recently went through the entire stack of Google apps and found that nearly half of them (45 percent) are still officially at beta status.

Traditionally “beta” has been used to designate software that isn’t ready for prime time and may have bugs, yet millions of people use the four-year-old Gmail on a daily basis and, for most, Gmail is bug free. So why call it a beta?

The shorthand way of looking at software development is something like this: alpha = not ready, beta = still not ready, release candidate = still not quite ready and x.0 = finally ready.

So why would a company like Google want equate its products with what most people consider “not ready?” The answer is that Google doesn’t use the term beta according to the usual definition, it apparently has its own, private definition of beta.

In response to those questioning Google’s heavy, and possibly inappropriate, use of the word beta, a Google spokesperson tells NetworkWorld, “we believe beta has a different meaning when applied to applications on the web….”

The spokesperson never exactly gets around to what Google’s precise definition of the word beta is, but reading between the lines it would seem the company means something like “we’re still adding features.”

In which case, don’t expect most Google apps to ever come out of beta. Which isn’t really a problem, it is after all just a word — just be aware that Google has its own definition.

[Note that Webmonkey on the other hand is very much a beta in the traditional sense of the word. Try our RSS feed… see, beta.]

[via Slashdot]

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