Sunday, January 14, 2007

Stuck in Beta forever?

If you’re not familiar with the term ‘beta’ in the information technology field, it basically means that a product is in ‘final testing and in limited release’.

The funny thing nowadays is that many of the websites I’ve used for over a year are still in beta, and are by no means limited to a few users.

As 2007 begins, one thinks back to 2006 and 2005 to realize that Gmail for example has been in beta for 3 years!

Microsoft’s Live Mail, the successor to Hotmail, has also been in beta for around a year a half, and the new version of Yahoo has been in beta for over a year!

Some industry analysts and bloggers joke about it saying that it seems to take longer to develop a website than it does a whole operating system!

A new version of Windows spends a few months as a beta version then completes its release.

Whereas with these sites, and other similar examples in every region of the world, the site owners see no problem with creating an impression that the site is still under testing; as it doesn’t stop them from selling advertising and generating business on the site.

Users still flock to the sites, and trust that ‘beta’ means “we are constantly improving an already reliable service”!

Take Gmail as an example. It is an excellent, fully functional service, with lots of extras like instant chatting with other fellow ‘Gmailers’, and the biggest storage in the universe, 3Gigabytes, and excellent design that is a pleasure to use.

Maybe, what Google mean by the word ‘beta’, is that it’s ‘beta than the rest’. Get it?

Or, more seriously, the thing that’s still in beta is the contextual advertising engine which delivers text ads to you while you use Gmail, based on the body text of your email messages. Surely, Google is working everyday to perfect that, because it makes them so much money!

That explains why everything about Gmail is free, including the service of downloading your messages to any standard e-mail program, such as Outlook or Thunderbird, at no charge.

Back to the Middle East, visit, a site which has been online for a year and claims to be in ‘eternal beta’. A site for video sharing in the region,, has been in beta for over two months and isn’t looking to change that status soon either., a now very successful auctioning site in the UAE and Jordan, stayed in beta for over six months!

Even a site I’ve released since November,, has been in beta ever since; and I haven’t taken the time to define what level of services I believe are final to claim the site is no longer in beta!

And therein lies your answer. It seems Gmail, Yahoo Mail and other are suffering from ‘beta-removal-phobia’, because that would mean there’s nothing left to improve and that’s that!

Maybe we should all just agree on another term like ‘constantly developing’ or ‘condev’ for short. And use that instead of killing the original meaning of the sequence, alpha-beta-final product!

Published in The Star


At 9:37 PM , Anonymous Qwaider قويدر said...

You probably meant: Alpha, Beta, Released (sometimes Gold) for the product development cycle

The thing with "Beta" is to reduce the liability of such services, since they're "Beta"'s people shouldn't expect the highest level of reliability in case of issues.

Only the very brave companies and usually for governmental and corporate demand or because some companies will not even consider developing solutions for non-released products (like RSA for example)
These drive developers to declare a specific project "Released", since many of these bodies are adamant in requesting specific level of quality that only released products provide. Through testing, 3rd party product reviews/evaluation/reliable-deployments are the most important of these factors.

At 7:06 AM , Blogger Luc Kazán said...

I completely agree with you. Now Gmail is open to everybody and it's still beta? Gosh, does this ever stop?

At 9:20 AM , Anonymous posicionamiento en web said...

It won't work in actual fact, that is what I suppose.

At 9:24 AM , Anonymous puertas metalicas cortafuegos said...

It will not succeed as a matter of fact, that is what I consider.


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