Long Beta Periods

By Deane Barker on December 11, 2003

What is it with perpetual betas? Thunderbird just offered a new release: 0.4. Zero-point-four? This is a full-featured, functional mail client. How does it just get to be 0.4?

Before you answer that, consider that Google News — a service used for the last year by millions of people every day — still has a “Beta” tag on its logo.

Why do development teams do this? Is it so they can blow off bugs by saying, “Yeah, well, that’s still in beta” or “Well, it’s not even a 1.0 release yet.” I don’t get it.

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  1. “1.0” means the product has a fixed API and that other people can start writing products that use it. “Beta” and “pre-release” products don’t guarentee compatibility from one day to the next.

    For example, for Thunderbird, it means that skins can expect to break as new features are added.

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