Do most Internet users know what the term "beta" is supposed to mean when applied to a piece of software or a service on-line?
I doubt it.
What got me thinking about this was getting an e-mail message from someone who I've always thought is quite clueful. He was using a Gmail account. And not just to send the message either. The Reply-To header was set back to his Gmail account.
At that point I was surprised by his willingness to rely upon a beta service for something as important as e-mail. But then I thought about it a bit harder and realized how diluted the term "beta" has become.
Earlier today, I read about Radicati recommending Yahoo Mail over Gmail. And my first thought was "yeay for us!." But then I realized how stupid that was. Gmail is a freaking BETA PRODUCT. If they'd recommended the opposite, I'd wonder what they were smoking.
The fact that they're charging $40 to read that report only adds to the stupidity of it all.
I really hope that the PR folks at Yahoo get this and don't start using such recommendations as a form of ammunition against Google and/or Gmail. It would just make us look stupid, and we really don't need anymore of that.
Looking beyond Gmail, Friendster has been in Beta since the beginning of time, but they have well over 6 million users now. Technorati was in beta for a quite a while, but recently dropped that label just before being launched into the media spotlight by CNN and the DNC.
I suspect that if anyone even notices the "beta" label anymore, they don't think twice about it. If the company was willing to put their service in front of millions of users, how likely is it that they're not reasonably confident that it's "almost there" in terms of usability and stability.
It's not like the old days when software beta programs required you to apply and then demanded regular feedback during the process. I think that in many (most?) cases, these on-line "open" betas are really just an excuse for launching services before they're ready.
Or maybe I'm just weird.
- The Future of Google is Beta? in which Kalyan picks on Google a bit
- For beta or worse? in which 37signals lists other popular "beta" services
Posted by jzawodn at August 01, 2004 06:12 PM