Why is “beta” so cool?

Ok, why are all of the online apps calling themselves beta? Call my old-fashioned, but beta is supposed to an early version of a product, available to some users for a set period of time specifically to test it before rolling out the product for real. Right?

So what is with all of these online sites being beta for years? How long have we been using Google talk “beta”? And Flickr took it another step and is now calling itself gamma (and they’ll have a hard time calling themselves delta since that already has such a defined meaning in geek-talk).

Maybe that since these are Web tools, they don’t want to give themselves traditional version numbers, but still need a way to differentiate major milestones and enhancements. Or maybe calling a site beta makes all of the users feel like cool early adopters. I think we need some sort of Web-based versioning scheme.

Or a new versioning scheme in general. The whole number-based system is completely worthless these days anyway if you ask me. The line between major releases and point releases is pretty arbitrary (I have been in meetings discussing this issue and it is just silly), let alone point-point-point releases. And don’t get me started on “0.x” releases. Or year-named releases. Or product renames. Or 8.993.20.2992.x1.dkkd releases.

Do I have a better idea? Not yet, but I’ll let you know if I think of something. I would say just use the code names as the product names since that is what everyone refers to them as anyway (Python, Cougar, Longhorn, etc.).



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