The BETA Tag: Crowdsourced Product Testing

Royal Pingdom asks a very pertinent question today, why is half of google in beta?

Google is known for keeping their products in beta (much) longer than most other companies. But exactly how many of their products are in beta? When we here at Pingdom investigated this, it turned out that out of the 49 Google products we could find, 22 are in beta. That’s 45%!

I think the best explanation for this (not necessarily for Google but for most other startups) is that because web based services aren’t tangible products, because there is an almost negligible cost of delivery, and because there is instant feedback (from a targeted audience), companies creating these services and applications open them up to a small group of people so that these people (who think they’ve been done a favor when they get a beta invite) can do product testing and provide feedback on how to make products better, for free.

This makes sense for the company because it lowers r&d costs and ensures more targeted development (if they listen to the feedback), and it makes sense for the consumers because they get to give input on how to improve the products they see themselves using in the future.

The other way to look at it, however, is that the beta tag has become a license to release half-done products (or platforms, i.e. product frameworks) into the wild without reproach (no matter how broken the product is… hey, it’s in beta!), and developing based on outside feedback rather than doing your job. Regardless, what interests me about this increasing trend is wether there is a market for compensated BETA testers for web services like there is for tangible products, or is a BETA invite to a shiny new site compensation enough?

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5 thoughts on “The BETA Tag: Crowdsourced Product Testing

  1. Gerard Barberi

    In Google’s case, I think they’re just doing it for shits and giggles. 🙂

    I mean… come on… Gmail is still “Beta.”

  2. Yura

    Judging by your words, you don’t condone the beta practice. Is it true?

    IMHO, it is relatively good, as long as you don’t slack in delivering what your target audience demands from the feedback.

  3. Yura

    You said:
    “and developing based on outside feedback rather than doing your job.”

    but a developer’s job is listening and acting to feedback, too 🙂

    Anyway, there probably can be freelance testers, but if the app isn’t interesting and/or useful, getting testing crowdsourced would be harder and it won’t be the main problem.

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