Reverse engineering the meaning of Google's 'Beta'

Summary:Now that Google News is out of beta after 1219 days (3.33 years, and I thought they would pull the trigger at 3.

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Now that Google News is out of beta after 1219 days (3.33 years, and I thought they would pull the trigger at 3.14... years as an homage to pi), we can try to discern the meaning of beta in this era of seemingly perpetual beta. Gary Price of Search Engine Watch provides some details on Google News exiting beta, and Google News creator Krishna Bahrat acknowledges the event. I am still wondering about the criteria for going from a 3+ year beta to non-beta. I don't recall if the path that led Local or Maps from beta to non-beta, and we know why Froogle, Video Blog Search are still declaratively in beta. But what is Google's criteria for elevating out of beta?

Bahrat mentioned that a new story recommendation feature was added to Personalized Search today as part of the finishing touches for News. Is it having a 'relatively' complete feature set, and only a trickle of flame mail from users? Probably not. And, what do you call something that is no longer in beta? Version 1.0, version G1, GA (General Availability), gamma, just News. If new features

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are in the process of being tested or added, does that mean Google News in back in the beta bin or just that feature? Fundamentally, beta identifies software that may not work as desired and is likely infested with some bugs that might give users a reason to abandon the service completely or temporarily--switching costs are low. Even with 'free' software, users have a low tolerance for crappy software. Of course, on the Web a bug fix or new feature is just one click or refresh away. Why doesn't Steve Jobs ship beta software, or is it just semantics--Google or company X's beta software is more reliable than someone's non-beta, version x release? Is the three-year public beta the new normal? Since I'm not making much progress at reverse engineering beta, does anyone have a better idea of what passes the beta threshold at Google, Yahoo, MSN or any of the Web portals and application companies?

Topics: Google

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