More on World, Beta 1

27 Nov ’05

The WSJ is running an article on the culture of beta issue I wrote about a few days ago.

Few people would fly on an airline that advertised its planes had untested engines, or swallow a pill from a drug company that admitted the side effects were unknown. Yet when it comes to software, it seems consumers are much more adventurous.

Technology companies like Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp. are changing the way they develop products by using the masses to identify problems in their unfinished programs, known as beta versions. For years, the term “beta” referred to a relatively short period of testing by a select group of outsiders. These days, beta editions are not only released to the public, but also stay in that mode for months, or even years. Google News, Google’s news aggregator, has been in beta for three years. Microsoft’s antispyware application has been in beta for nearly a year.

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