As you cruise the Web2.0 aisle, you’ll see almost every site has a “beta” tag attached to it. For those of you who don’t know, “beta” is a label you put on a product before it’s ready for primetime, before you launch. Officially (and according to wikipedia),
the beta period is likely to be unstable but useful for internal demonstrations, but not yet ready for release.
Often this stage begins when the developers announce a feature freeze on the product, indicating that no more feature requirements will be accepted for this version of the product.
What gets me is that many public and totally usable sites still carry the Beta stamp. Look at AOL’s Video Product which has been in the news a bunch lately or or Yahoo’s Map service which has been working for over 9 months now (and i really like btw). Or also Google Video also has it although it serves tens of thousands of videos a day. These are not private releases to fix bugs, they are insecurity labels put on to products because the developers aren’t sure if they’ll break.
This completely annoys me. I want people to develop a site until it’s worthy for people to use and then put it out. If it is available for anyone to use – it’s ready. Call it version 1.0. People know what 1.0 means, it means the first iteration. As you fix it and add features, you can go to 1.2, 1.5, 2.0, whatever. But keeping a product in perpetual beta mode is just wrong – have the balls to actually take the training wheels off and see if you can ride.
Not Everyone Sucks
There are some sites that are clever and smart. For example:
1. Writely. They have the best system i’ve seen. At the top right side of their page they have a “beta meter” where users can vote whether their service is stable enough to come out of beta. That’s a great idea. It’s the users who you’re trying to please and if they deem the service solid, then it probably is. This is a company that Google bought earlier this year to build their Google Suite that i’ve speculated about for many a moon.
2. Flickr. Instead of being another copycat beta or even alpha – they actually went one more level to the third letter in the alphabet to Gamma. I like it and it goes with their playful nature of the entire site. I totally respect how they do their own thing. Kudos.