Some in the blogosphere are jumping all over Google and its newly acquired GrandCentral Internet-based telephony service for not quite living up to their promise to give customers one number for life.
Blogger Judi Sohn, one of the few that was treated in this manner, posts a note that she received from GrandCentral's founders Craig Walker & Vincent Paquet that said that as part of their beta testing, her GrandCentral number will need to be changed as of August 25 (this Saturday).
As part of our beta testing, we are continually evaluating different solutions and partners to create the best quality service possible. Unfortunately, a very small number of users have been assigned numbers that are not performing to our quality standards and are being replaced with higher quality services. To ease the transition to a new number, we have already added (703) yyy-yyyy as a replacement number to your account.
Judy's "well, duh" right that GrandCentral should have included a notification of these changes that would be visible to her when she logged on to her account and reached her admin page. But before more folks get their bees in a bonnet, I'd like to take the more panoramic view of this incident.
The real take-away, I'd argue, is that the term "beta" has lost all meaning.
Time was when "beta" meant an early version of a product, made available to a very few, with engineers, developers and others recruiting knowledgeable testers to be part of the development process.
Now, more often then not, "beta" has become a marketing term, a come-on to get your product or software early.
The marketing angle comes in when "beta" users often join in as unwitting testers for how the product will be used, from which sites and ads users come from, etc.
Because "beta" can mean so many different things, its original intent as a "beware, this product isn't really ready, but if you are willing to endure the bugs without official tech support" harbinger is too often muted.
That being the case, we tend to jump all over tech companies when betas don't work.
My solution: let's go back to controlled betas released only to testers aware of- and willing to accept- the bugs and risks.