Is Beta Losing Its Meaning?

In today's web almost every new product and service is in beta. Google is notorious for labeling all of their services as beta, almost to the point where it is a joke. Then what is wrong with beta? Originally, beta signified technology that was still in the making, where mistakes were expected and would be fixed in due time.

"Beta" is no longer the same beta. Beta has come to the point where businesses only use it as an excuse to not provide liability for their applications. For example, various Gmail users have complained that they lost all of their emails (over two gigabytes) and Google refused to do anything about it.

The majority of users will not expect liability from a beta product, and businesses know this. With this knowledge in mind, why would a business ever move a product out of beta if they already make tons of money from it? The simple answer is that they would not.

As consumers, do we have the right to expect liability from a corporation for their beta services? Absolutely. As a customer of a business, we should be expecting some form of liability or compensation when a service goes haywire, even if it is in beta.

Companies, like Google, have soiled the beta label, using it as an escape hatch for providing liability for their products. What is the answer to the situation? Maybe we should just stop using the services of a company where every product is in beta and there are no intentions to change their status.

Whatever the solution, we can conclude that beta is losing - if it has not already lost - its meaning.



  • I still tend to shy away from something if it labeled "beta" because to me that still says "use at your own risk." Since I'm a product of when "Beta" did actually mean someting, it's going to take a while for me to break out of that habit. Mabey I won't after this blog! smile

    Posted by WarpNacelle on Tue 14 Mar 2006 at 9:10

  • i do this its a bit of a misleading tag now. I would put me off a bit but im not overly fussed.

    Posted by Matt Oakes (external link) on Tue 14 Mar 2006 at 11:47

  • I disagree. If the service is good enough, why not try the beta? Beta is like a test and if no one uses the beta, how will they know what to fix? When the Google Search Engine first was started, it was in beta for well over a year and was averaging over 500,000 searches a day, while in beta. Had it not been for them searches, we might not have the Google we have today.

    Beta at your own risk, but beta!

    Posted by stickycarrots (external link) on Wed 15 Mar 2006 at 18:20

  • This is what a lot of people say, but I have to disagree. I do agree that beta products aren't necessarily bad, and you should expect errors. However, companies like Google should still be held liable for corruptive errors in their software that affect their customers.

    This isn't against beta software, just that companies use it as a scapegoat for providing liability in their applications.

    Posted by Ethan Poole (external link) on Wed 15 Mar 2006 at 18:39

  • There is a difference between using a web based "beta" service and installing a "beta" app on your computer. Obviously the web based "beta" doesn't present any risk to your computer. I tend to steer clear of "beta" apps.

    Posted by WarpNacelle on Fri 17 Mar 2006 at 16:43

  • Well, all betas present some form of risk. Gmail (a web-based app) is risky as if you store all your emails and it somehow deletes them you're in trouble. Then if you're using a beta version of some finance software and it goes bad you're in trouble again.

    You just need to make sure that the beta software you use provides liability or some assistance in data loss, or that you don't use it as your main application for that area.

    Posted by Ethan Poole (external link) on Sat 18 Mar 2006 at 6:33

  • Gmail is free to use. So the customers should just shut up and be happy.

    Posted by Karl-Sebastian on Mon 20 Mar 2006 at 12:58

  • Even a free service (Google does display ads, so it isn't 100% free) should provide some liability. Why do you think business professionals don't use the free email services online? Although rarely, they can be unreliable in many areas, and their provider will do nothing about it.

    Posted by Ethan Poole (external link) on Mon 20 Mar 2006 at 14:06

  • Anyone seen the open source C++ IDE called Code::Blocks?

    Their "Lastest stable release" is 1.0-RC2, according to the download page (external link). Hold on, if it is a release candidate, how can it be called a stable release?


    Posted by Eugene Wee on Sun 26 Mar 2006 at 9:17

  • If you provide a free service, and swear yourself free of all responsiblity in the contract between the program and the user the company needs not to worry. The customer should be glad just to have an email.

    Posted by Karl-Sebastian on Tue 28 Mar 2006 at 10:26

  • Sebastian, you are still not getting the point. Sure it's fine if a product is free and provides little liability. However, the main point here is that beta is completely losing its meaning. Products never move from beta. Beta is just used as a coverup.

    Posted by Ethan Poole (external link) on Tue 28 Mar 2006 at 14:58