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Saturday, June 09, 2007

What is Beta Software all about?

Today, I'll touch upon an interesting term that's come into use with the evolution of IT - Beta. Well, what's a Beta all about? How is it different from the final product?

In a software release the following pattern is followed

  • Alpha Release
  • Beta Release
  • Release Candidate
  • Release [To the Market]
  • Quick Fix
  • Service Pack

The first one Alpha is an internal testing release in the company.

The second Beta release is done when bugs which are reported are fixed. Then its release outside the company to few organizations or in the internet world to the open for testing. Bugs that are reported are fixed as and when. The release candidate is the next in the pattern with most of the bugs fixed. Finally the product or service is launched in public.

If any bugs found after that, the company releases quick fixes or patches to it. If the number of quick fixes reach a great number, a service pack is released which contain all the fixes since the release.

Some development teams use the term beta informally to denote build of the software that is stable enough to be useful for internal demonstrations and previews to select customers, but not yet ready for release. Some developers refer to this stage as a preview, as a technical preview (TP) or as an early access. Often this stage begins when the developers announce a feature freeze on the product, indicating that no more features will be added to this version of the product and only software issues, or bugs, will be removed. Beta versions stand at an intermediate step in the full development cycle. Developers release them to a group of beta testers (sometimes the general public) for a user test. The testers report any bugs that they found and sometimes minor features they would like to see in the final version.

A good example would be to look at how the Beta's differ among the web companies like Google / Yahoo / Blurtit, you can read more on it here.