Reverse engineering the meaning of Google's 'Beta'

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.

TOPICS: Google

googlenews.jpgNow 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 googlenewsb.jpgare 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?

Topic: Google

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  • Every company does it...

    Google is just more honest about it. Windows 1.0 and 2.0 were Microsoft betas that customers paid full price for. It was only with Windows 3.0 that the OS moved out of beta. Google has a lot more latitude because their 'software' is free.
    • Did you read the title? ####

      Where is Microsoft in this article,
      move on with life and stop trying to be the
      advocate for open source and the 'free'
      welfare mentality.

      please lets move on with life here read the
      story and leave Microsoft out of it
  • Actually a 10 year beta

    Google announced today that Google News is out of beta and is now an official service. Congratulations to Krishna Bharat. I worked with Krishna 10 years ago at the DEC Research Labs in Palo Alto, known as SRC. Krishna first developed a web newspaper back in 1995 at the DEC labs. Here is a link to his paper "An Interactive Personalized Newspaper on the WWW (1995)". It was a remarkable achievement then, and a successful service now.

    Inventions take a long time to refine and bring to market. Google News really started more than 10 years ago in the DEC labs. The Tablet PC is another example. Chuck Thacker produced the first tablet PC while working at Xerox PARC in the early Nineties. Chuck was also a co-inventor of Ethernet while at PARC.

    I wrote a blog today about this and other research projects that finally became products. You can find it here
  • Simply stated...

    Beta means that the developer wants end-users to use the product and report any problems, but there is no guarantee that problems will be resolved in a timely (or at all) manner. In other words, there is no committment to support from the development side.
  • Thank goodness that they haven't actually released an OS...

    Imagine if Google actually made the much-rumored GoogleOS. It would be in beta for a DECADE. Google's development cycles look a lot like open source projects'. Start something, get the basic functionality almost right, then throw a billion new features into at a breakneck pace, none of which work, until the software goes from something simple and on the cusp of being usable, to a steaming pile of garbage.

    Maybe I should go work for them. I'm used to working in an environment where if someone gets a BSOD while their web browser happens to be pointing to my project, I get called onto the carpet until I explain that my basic HTML page had nothing to do with a BSOD... heck, I'm held so closely accountable for my work, if the user inputs valid but incorrect data, I'm held liable for not thinking to verify data acccuracy... Google, here I come!

    Justin James
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