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March 9, 2009

Will Gmail Come Out of Beta?

Five years after its release, Gmail is still a beta application. Gmail continues to add significant features, but most of the interesting ideas are now in Gmail Labs: tasks, offline Gmail, sending SMS or adding iGoogle gadgets.

It makes sense to add experimental features in the Labs section and remove the "beta" label from Gmail's logo. Felipe Zamorano, a reader of this blog, noticed that the Gmail logos created for some of the themes have two versions: one that includes "beta" and another one without "beta".



Google has recently launched a Labs section for APIs and started to add deprecation policies for the APIs that graduated from Labs. "For these graduates, we're increasing our commitment with published deprecation policies and other critical support services. The Visualization API terms, Contacts Data API terms, and Picasa Web Albums Data API terms include good examples of transparent deprecation policies. They state that we'll support each version for at least 3 years from when it's deprecated or a newer version is introduced."

Maybe it's time to show the same commitment for popular applications like Gmail or Google Calendar and drop the "beta" label.

36 comments:

  1. I like how Google commits it's products to constant testing until it graduates from beta status but 5 years is a bit long.

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  2. I think they need to move it out of beta. Especially if they want to attract midsized businesses to their platform.

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  3. Beta status protects Google, pure and simple.

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  4. Maybe there should be a Labs feature to remove the "Beta" label :P

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  5. What amuses me most is that people are paying to use Google's beta software in the form of Google Apps for Domains. http://www.google.com/a advertises gmail, calendar, and docs. All of these are in beta still.

    I'm showing my age, which isn't very old, by saying that I remember a time when there was outrage that companies would have public betas. People were upset that the company was abusing its users as free software testers when they should be paying their employees to do the job. Now, Google is getting companies to pay *it* for beta software.

    The technology world is stranger than fiction sometimes.

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  6. "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."
    - Inigo Montoya

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  7. i love the princess bride

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  8. Jim, you rock! That pretty much perfectly describes what google is doing...

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  9. Yeah, 5 years is a bit long.

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  10. I found about 5 months ago a logo of Google Mail without the beta:

    my posting

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  11. When some Google guy came to my college, someone asked about that. His answer was: "The beta in our products means that we are never going to stop innovating"

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  12. Beta or not beta. It works much better than other services and offer better tools.

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  13. Actually, last week, for about 2 days, my Gmail account (actually a Google Apps i.e. Google for Domains account) had a logo without the "Beta"!!! After logging in and out again, it was back to "normal" though... the logo was basically the same, just a little bigger and sharper

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  14. Can anyone who's into Google programming tell me why there are no Mail APIs?

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  15. again! my gmail account doesnt show the "beta"

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  16. @Cool Acid,

    Yeah, I've heard that "ongoing innovation == permanent beta" line from Web companies before. Personally, I think it's BS and just an attempt to be grown ups and take responsibility. I would bet they have millions, perhaps tens of millions of users. That's "production" whether they want to admit it or not.

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  17. @Anonymous,

    What, POP3, IMAP and SMTP not good enough for ya? ;-)

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  18. I never even really noticed the Beta tag. Gmail works great no matter what you call it but 5 years IS too long for anything to be considered a Beta product.

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  19. I'm guessing that the marketing value of a Google product marked "beta" is worth more than one without the label. Google, as a brand, is synonymous with innovative, bleeding edge technology. To peel off the "beta" label is to peel away that association and some of the fun exploring it's new products and features, which may explain Google's reluctance to remove the beta label after several years. And the risk of doing that? Not much. When Google uses the term beta, as Inigo would say (thanks Jim), it means something different, "innovative, new and perhaps slightly quirky." When Microsoft uses the term "beta" on new products, (nothing against MS here) you better believe they mean it, as in, "liable to take your system down in a blue flash of glory." That's real risk baby! True blue beta.

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  20. "ongoing innovation == permanent beta"

    "The beta in our products means that we are never going to stop innovating"

    I have to agree. To me, hearing Gmail is beta tells me they are still bringing everything they got on it. It tells me they are working to improve it everyday, to see what works and what people like. Personally, I don't want to see Beta taken off -ever. I don't want to hear, "that's good enough."

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  21. Who cares it is a great product

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  22. Who knows how long Google Chrome will be in beta or a different release.

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  23. The longer the better ; it means the product is still being improved !
    I am pretty sure, there is a voice recognition to write email in the pipes.

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  24. The problem is that the Beta label doesn't mean anything for an application that is constantly being improved. That's why it's ridiculous.

    The word "beta" has definitely been watered out a bit in the public eye. If Google have serious stability or security concerns with their product, they should not offer it commercially. If they do not have stability concerns, they should remove the beta label. I'm really annoyed that they have been clinging on to it for all this time, especially if it turns out that this was some marketing idiots idea of how to associate Gmail with innovation. That's just dumb.

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  25. "The beta in our products means that we are never going to stop innovating"

    Seems pretty inconsistent to me. The Classic Google search application , iGoogle, Google search history, Google Maps, Google Reader etc are not in beta but are constantly being improved.

    Must be marketing as it all works better than beta for me. The only exception being some of the labs add ons.

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  26. I don't like the new Gmail logo.

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  27. But who fucking cares?

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  28. The continuing use of the beta tag on such an obviously mature service really means very little, one way or another... but it devalues the word. Are we going to have to start saying "alpha" now to refer to products that aren't ready for primetime?

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  29. It is ridiculous for Google to still have the beta tag on Gmail. The notion that they think it's appropriate to leave it in beta because they want to continually improve upon it is absurd. If the product is ready for the public to use and if Google believes the code is solid, then they need to "release" it. Beta means it's still being tested, and is not ready for release because there may still be bugs. It does NOT mean that the code is frozen from any future improvements. That's what future releases are for. This is just absurd, and they know it which is what boggles my mind. For a big software company like Google to leave such a large project that has become so widely used in perpetual beta is just nuts. That said, I use Gmail because I like it. It's a really good project. But come on Google, release the frickin product already.

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  30. For me using something beta is annoying. Beta means its not perfect and i like my stuff to be perfect. Although Gmail to me is more perfect then anything else.
    Gmail Great. Beta not.

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  31. @Anonymous
    There is no such thing as 'perfect' in the software world, since it has more to do with magic then science.

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  32. Off late, Gmail almost never works on Mozilla Firefox [2, 2+ and 3]or IE 6.0

    I keep getting "Connection interrupted Error" and/or Error code 700.

    Wonder of wonders, it works fine on Chrome.

    Smelling something..

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  33. Although it's just a word I think it would almost look odd without the beta tag after all these years with it.

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  34. I think Gmail really have to go out from beta now. It has the capabilities to be number one email service provider, you know. I even like Gmail better than Y*hoo!

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  35. @"off late..." Anonymous poster

    "keep getting "Connection interrupted Error" and/or Error code 700.

    Wonder of wonders, it works fine on Chrome."

    I wouldn't be so quick to assume. I use firefox, chrome, and avant and have never had any problems with Gmail loading. Maybe your ad-blocker is interfering? Adblock Plus for Firefox is known to screw Gmail up.

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  36. who fucking cares about the beta

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