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have you noticed that the most popular sites/services are beta?  one of the biggest abusers: google.  recently, my local university changed their complete student email/collaboration systems to 'outsource' to google (gmail, google calendar, gtalk -- all in beta).  this university has a student population of 60,000.  instantly google grew their ad revenue by 60K users.  it was an interesting move i thought.

but it got me thinking.  in my role, we look for early adopters as well, but it seems like at times to be a challenge.  in fact, the same university was hesitant to early adopt a technology we were working on at the time.

so what makes services different?  a ton of the things people use and have relied on are in "beta" according to their organizations.  is that just a moniker so that if anything goes wrong there isn't any real liability and it is easy to say "it's in beta" as an excuse?  i don't know, but it made me look differently at these things.

why are we so encouraged ourselves to not think twice about services like gmail beta, but we would about certain microsoft products?  okay, stop throwing rotten vegetables at me.  kidding aside, i'd argue that email is *the* most important asset/application people have these days (technically speaking).  so, you'd trust that with beta?  have no idea where you are going and use a map service -- what if that was in beta (google maps was in beta and had tons of people relying upon it for finding their ways in unknown areas)?

so i just get curious the more i think of it as to how google (and others) are defining beta...what's the duration, what's the benchmark for moving it out.  and is it ethical to be making money off your users on a beta product (i.e., ads in gmail)?  and doesn't it even matter?

heck yahoo bought flickr and they didn't have a "production" application!  and further heck, i use flickr and actually pay for the pro services.  yep, i'm paying for a service that's beta -- well, okay 'gamma' according to them.

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