The death of beta

After writing about my first experience with the new Yahoo GO TV people keep reminding me about the fact that this is beta software. At some point back in time a “beta version” of a software package was a complete version, but with possibilities for bugs and maybe some minor functions missing.

Flickr Beta Gmail Beta

This whole Web 2.0 thing has destroyed the “beta” state completely. “Beta” means nothing as long as the world’s most successful photo sharing site – Flickr is still in “beta” after years of existence and the world’s best web based mail – Gmail is also in “beta”.

So what should the team behind Yahoo Go TV do when they want to show people something before it is completed? Call it “a public preview” or something. If you absolutely want to call it a “beta” because that is so cool and Web 2.0 like then please emphasise what’s the reason for the “beta” state.

For Yahoo Go TV the situation is a bit special since they bought a complete product with a large user base and lots of functions and then release this complete product as a “beta”. This is my suggestion:

1. Analyze what’s the most important functions for the passionate and long time users:
– The configuration tool and flexibility
– The plugins

2. Understand that it is these long time users that will write about your product at once and like it or not, they will compare it with the existing one that they love.

3. Keep those existing functions when releasing the first “beta”

4. If keeping these advanced functions is impossible make it completely clear that they will appear again in a future release. Do that by implementing some extra screens in the installation wizard.

A screen that says “Open the advanced configuration tool” with a greyed out “OK” button and a message that says “This is a preview version, the configuration utility will be back in the next release“. Do the same thing with the plugins and the other functions that you find important. “Add plugins” – Message: we will keep supporting plugins but they are disabled in this preview version. And so on.

Doing so would avoid the negative parts of discussions like this and this. Now, the fact that you follow the forums and the blogs and actually post comments and take part in the discussion is great. Keep up the good work!

Looking forward to the next “beta” or “public preview” or “release candidate” or … of Yahoo Go for TV!


Writely Logo
I forgot to mention another solution. The extremely cool BetaMeter that writely use:
Beta Meter

It’s now on 64%. At least I can see an end to Writely’s beta status.

The death of beta

8 thoughts on “The death of beta

  1. I actually do think that the reason why all these products are still in “beta” is that they want them to remain “unsupported”. Since most of these applications are free (or relatively cheap) building up a strong service organisation (help-desk, training facilities, bug tracking systems, handling feature requests, etc. etc.) just isn’t feasible. And I also guess that for a trendy web 2.0 developer it is just to boring and anti-innovative to relate to once customers…

  2. Good point. But as fas as I know Flickr makes money from their paid customers and also provide support…

    And for Gmail. What’s wrong about simply saying things straight:

    This service is free and unsupported. It is a complete product and we believe it is the best web based mail client on this planet. We will continue to work on it and like all computer based systems there might be bugs and you might experience problems

    Simple as that.

    If the fact that something may contain a bug dooms it into eternal beta then Windows XP should never have left alpha…

  3. Yes! Trond A! But I’m a beginner and with my Pinnacle 310i and the screen-card on my pc I can’t watch tv in Meedio. I can see the EPG/Programguide. The oposit problem is in the Pinnacle Media Center software provided with the card. Can see tv, but can’t get the EPG/Programguide. An other problem with my pc is that my tv-card does not code the signal, so my cpu is running wild! This result in a computer which are slow and it takes about 1 min. to stop a recording.

    Therefore I did not support the fantastic team at Meedio. No other reason!

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