The Beta As An Excuse?


The Wall Street Journal is talking about the recent craze for Beta only products jump started by Google aka “king of beta.” I am sure there are a lot of people who think it is a good thing, but to me it represents a malaise no one talks about: lack of focus and intimate knowledge of what you are trying to build. Amongst the two most used Web 2.0 products out in the market never did live-betas. Flickr was a well conceived product, with Stewart and Caterina figuring out precisely the features they wanted in the product. They have made incremental changes, but hardcore Flickr users tell me, it was the shizzle from early on. Ditto for Net News Wire, which despite its age, is the best RSS reader for the Mac. Its version 2.0 is a little different from the original, and Brent Simmons has added support for say Podcasts, but the basic premise hasn’t changed. I kinda say the technology business is still an inexact science. JZ’s Apple iPod problems, constant virus problems and all that stuff…. if tech industry was Detroit, well Congressional inquiry would be under way by now.

Update: Apparently boys from 37Signals, another company which thinks its products through, had caught onto beta-as-an-excuse nearly a year ago.



@Everton – Release Candidate isn’t a posh word for Beta, it’s what comes about when the beta period is amost complete!

Piers Fawkes

I don’t know if this interests you. A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post on PSFK called ‘Google’s Betas : The Emperor’s New Clothes’ – it got some praise and also got some stick. I argued that a continuous churn of products at beta level does nothing to ensure an emotional attachment between consumer and brand.


I have to agree with you OM – I used to love being a part of beta programmes. Now, nearly every service I use is in ‘Beta’ or ‘Release Candidate’ – the latest posh way of saying beta!

I think another problem I’ve spotted is that, yes there are lots of cool services emerging, but are they really services that the mass market will want? I have a sneaky suspicion that what it is the same core group of users who are all registering for the same services, reading each others blogs etc etc

C. Enrique Ortiz

Who cares! I don’t…. Create, finish the product and put it out… Let people start using it and provide feedback. No need to wait and hold off – have no fear, don’t worry, get it to market sooner rather than later.


Zoli Erdos

OM, please, Flickr may have been “shizzle from early on” but it definitely had a looong beta period, in fact they only took of the “beta” label after the Yahoo acquisition.
Otherwise, I’m all with you in being a bit sick of “everything beta”.

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