Alpha, Beta… Public

In this world where web apps can be built, launched and iterated quickly we’re seeing more and more of the perpetual beta. Even most of googles apps carry the ‘beta’ tag long past when my usage experience seems to be bug free.

One side of me says, forget the distinction… of course it’s always beta… if it’s not it’s not evolving. Another side, says it’s about managing expectations, as in “Don’t throw things at your computer (or me) if this doesn’t work as you want it to.”

As we work onBy launching I’ve been pushed to figure out some sort of rationale for our ‘readiness status’. In trying to balance our desire to iterate rapidly in public and at the same time indicate what users can expect from the service, here’s what I think we’re going to go with:

  • Public Alpha: We’re got some minimum basics but are still working on our core tech and interface. We prefer ‘public’ so we’re opening it for experimentation by anyone who wants. Expect frequent #fail.
  • Beta: Here we’ll have developed our core tech and features and will be  working hard on scalability and prioritizing new features. Expect the occaisional #fail.

For sure we’ll be going live early. Earlier than I’ll probably be comfortable with but I keep finding that every time I push something to the public I get benefits that outweigh the costs. I wonder what’s ‘too early’ – I just hope we don’t find out.