In his blog, Ross Mayfield points to and elaborates on Mary Hodder's observation that the widespread and loose use of the term 'beta' is confusing users--including developers--who don't get its meaning anymore. She says:
Google puts it on everything but search, so does Flickr, so do many software sellers, as Brent did at Ranchero [NetNewsWire]. It's clear now that he obviously meant it in one strictly definied way, but since there is so much variety of definition and use by other developers, how should users take this overall? Isn't it up to developers to address a common definition so as not to confuse things.