Mike Elgan over as ComputerWorld.com let loose on the fact that Google slings around the terms ‘beta‘ and ‘experimental‘ only to get around blame and criticism. I tend to agree.
Just like Microsoft and many other software companies, Google designates a huge number of its many online services as beta, and many features as merely “experimental.”
For example, did you know that Gmail is still in “beta,” and has been in the “beta” stage of development for five years?
I’m pretty sick and tired of seeing the word Beta whether it deals with Google or some other Web 2.0 site. To a point, I think it’s embarrassing to have the word displayed on a product or service for five years. At face value, you would begin to think that the software would never reach a point of completion. However in Google’s case, they can use that term Beta as a defense against criticism considering end users don’t pay a dime to use their products/services. After five years of being in beta, I throw that line of thought out the window.
Mike sums it up pretty well in one of his closing statements:
New rule: If a “product” is attracting eyeballs and making money, if the users don’t know they’re beta testers, if the beta is unlimited in time and in scope, and if the product will never, ever be offered for sale anyway, the words “beta” and “experimental” have no meaning at all. And the products are open to criticism.
So when everyone is wondering why the word ‘beta’ has been devalued to the point where it means nothing, I hope they do a Google search to find the answer.