Beta Testing in the Web 2.0 World

November 15, 2006

beta test

The final stage in the testing of new software before its commercial release, conducted by testers other than its developers.

I’ve been involved in the IT space for many years now, and the definition above was clearly supported in the traditional software development lifecycle. It seems like every product I run across now has a Beta disclaimer on their site. A Beta test obviously doesn’t have to be non-public anymore either. The entire world can now be considered Beta testers. And when is a product not considered Beta anymore? A product can be in Beta for several months, if not years. If we are now moving into the Web 2.0 world, should Web 1.0 be considered as one really long Beta test?

Why am I pondering this? The SplashCast crew is currently conducting internal QA testing and, as Alex mentioned yesterday, we will be ready for “Beta testing” soon. What does that mean to us? Well, the first few weeks will be very limited and available only to a small group of invited testers. This will allow us to get very personalized feedback and enable us to correct or change anything in the product that we missed or is not quite as intuitive as it should be. This fits my definition of a Beta test.

Then, we will open up our “Beta test” to a much larger group of “Beta testers” that have signed up via our web site. Given the nature of the SplashCast product, this essentially means the product is now public. Granted, it will be under continuous improvement based on user feedback. So when does it stop being a Beta product?

What does Beta mean to you? I believe a new lexicon is desperately needed. Any suggestions?