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May 11, 2007

Perpetual Beta


There's no final version. Nothing is static, everything is changing. With every new iteration, small changes make you realize the creature is alive. You're never bored: sometimes they're doing small tests and you get the chance to see things before they're launched, in other cases the evolution takes you by surprise. As with most beta software, there's no guarantee that things will go well, but this new perpetual beta removes most of the risks because the changes are much smaller.

When a product is still in beta, you never know what's going to happen next. It may change its direction, it might morph into something else. It's an unfinished product, like we all are, always open to new horizons.

It's like writing a book, publishing it and then realizing that you should have written something else. But you can't change too much until the second edition. In the web apps world, the second edition can be launched much faster and it doesn't require buying a new copy.

With all its mistakes, the beta application is honest and admits is not yet perfect. It's still testing, exploring, challenging the possibilities.

20 comments:

  1. Adevarat graiesti. Multa sanatate.

    You're speaking the real truth as always.Good health to you.

    Regards, (Salutari) Mihai from Oz.

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  2. True, but endlessly calling it β sux. Especialy when we all know there will never be any stable version.

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  3. sooo what was the point of this?.... i mean ya sure wow great beta means its unfinished woo....but how is this in anyway a tip?....beta just means still in the works....if u use anything google you should know this by now....

    im sorry i just do not see the point in this "tip"

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  4. Windows is in perpetual beta, but it is not labeled beta. At least Google is honest and not trying to offer something that is not ready as a finished product.

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  5. What an irrelevant post. You may want to stop blogging while on acid.

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  6. But even final products can be improved. You think the invention of the lightbulb stopped from the moment it could illuminate a room? You think the computer manufacturers decided that people didn't need computers faster than 500 MHz? And yet at the time when those products were released, they didn't guarentee 100% up-time or perfection, but they promised change and improvement in the future, without a beta logo. Honestly, I think that the meaning of beta has gone away. Any product is a work in progress, and that should not necessarily constitute the label "beta". Why even bother with calling something beta if even final releases are buggy?

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  7. Earth is still in beta.

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  8. Okay, you know what?

    All those who do not like a post for stupid reasons are given the right to simply go to another website. You are not being forced to read anything! So stop writing completely ignorant comments, and being rude to Ionut. His post is fine; it simply explains the "beta" tag in a way that makes complete sense and helps one understand better the point of Google's strategy. I'm not saying it's wrong to disagree, as "mwgamera" did; that is one of the purposes of commenting.

    I'm specifically looking at you, "nick" and "kyle" as you two are what one could term TROLLS. If I were Ionut, I would block you from posting your nonsense.

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  9. Irrelevant = not relevant or pertinent to the subject; not applicable.

    So I can say "what an irrelevant comment", but you can't say my post is irrelevant because that was the subject of the discussion.

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  10. I like it when you spit back, Ionut. They deserve it.

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  11. Please keep blogging on acid! I love that.

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  12. Beta is merely an indication that the existing product still has an unreasonable amount of bugs within it.

    Not that the software is in a state of completion, nothing ever is.

    Google has just nullified the usefulness of a word like beta.

    This article sucks.

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  13. In Google-speech, beta means that the application is not feature complete. Tim O'Reilly has an article about Web 2.0 that talks about a radical change in software release cycles:

    << Users must be treated as co-developers, in a reflection of open source development practices (even if the software in question is unlikely to be released under an open source license.) The open source dictum, "release early and release often" in fact has morphed into an even more radical position, "the perpetual beta," in which the product is developed in the open, with new features slipstreamed in on a monthly, weekly, or even daily basis. It's no accident that services such as Gmail, Google Maps, Flickr, del.icio.us, and the like may be expected to bear a "Beta" logo for years at a time.

    Cal Henderson, the lead developer of Flickr, recently revealed that they deploy new builds up to every half hour. This is clearly a radically different development model! While not all web applications are developed in as extreme a style as Flickr, almost all web applications have a development cycle that is radically unlike anything from the PC or client-server era. It is for this reason that a recent ZDnet editorial concluded that Microsoft won't be able to beat Google: "Microsoft's business model depends on everyone upgrading their computing environment every two to three years. Google's depends on everyone exploring what's new in their computing environment every day." >>

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  14. I agree with the nay-sayers. Anybody who thinks Google's abuse of the term beta is drinking too much koolaid.

    Sticking a stamp of "beta" on something for extended periods of time shows a lack of dedication or a refusal to take responsibility. Eventually you need to just focus on bugs, polish up the existing features and call it a release.

    If you don't do this, then you are only in a hurry to implement the next big feature, and never sticking around it long enough to clean it up and make it good, quality over quantity people!

    By the logic of this post, EVERYTHING in life would be "beta". Sorry but this concept is just silly and I would respect the blogger much more if he would take the criticism at heart and realize how absurd this post is.

    +1 to stop drinking while blogging

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  15. I think Google should stop calling usable products "beta". It just dilutes the meaning of beta and leads unsuspecting consumers to believe that any product under beta is fine to use.

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  16. Maintenance and revising is part of the software lifecycle. It is very rare for any project of importance to be perfect on the first shipped iteration. All software needs testing however the word Beta should be used sparingly.

    When most of the people using your software are using it as end users, not testing it, and not giving feedback your product is no longer in beta and should be fairly evaluated next to other products.

    Gmail has been in beta for ever, now even has pay services. But its still a beta! I use gmail and like it a whole lot, however due to the extreme google fandom its not to google's benefit to switch products from beta to a final release. Even if the product is in a releasable form and being sold.

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  17. mwgamera said on May 11, 2007 6:14 PM PDT:
    "True, but endlessly calling it β sux. Especialy when we all know there will never be any stable version."

    Just because something is beta, doesn't make it unstable.

    How many times does Google crash per year?

    Certainly less than any Windows "non beta" installation.

    There is no such thing as a project that has been released perfect. Its impossible, saying something is beta is just like saying "hey guys, check out what we've done so far. Any suggestions? its open to improvement."

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  18. The word "beta" has earned a negative reputation, so people do not understand that "perpetual beta" is a totally different, innovative and honest.
    A perpetual beta software works better than one that needs patches or that the user must buy a new version every year.
    Furthermore, every application will be this way in the future: not to buy versions. Or you use the program or not, when using, it will be in its current version.
    Congratulations by article.

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  19. Perpetual beta is also vital for smaller business to compete with large corporations. Through being agile small businesses can be large corporations to the chase.

    Does anyone know some good examples of perpetual beta? I am currently studying a unit on Web 2.0 and I am searching for some applications to research.

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  20. Nice post, I think Perpetual beta is a pattern that really change the ways technology operate. Nothing are the final version strive developers to try and develop new ideas. This pattern is used by many industries which involve information technology differently. A strong example will be facebook, where new functions are frequently being released to improve the system.

    Great post!

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