'Beta' is the new CYA

Nick Bradbury has an interesting post about the new connotation associated with software designated as ‘Beta’. ‘Beta’ used to mean buggy and unstable. Now, more people associate ‘Beta’ with ‘solid version with not as many features’. He brings up a good point about GMail being in ‘Beta’ status for years, despite the service itself being fairly rock solid.

Which brings up an interesting question: Why mark a piece of software as ‘Beta’ in the first place?

Personally, I think it’s because companies want to point to that ‘Beta’ if something goes wrong. “Hey, sorry you lost all your data, but we TOLD you it was in Beta.”

Giving a piece of software a version number or a release name implies a level of service between the software company and it’s users. If it’s ‘Beta’, there’s no expectation of quality, service or support. That seems a little CYA to me.