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Google Businesses The Internet

Google Considers Taking Beta Tag Off Gmail 180

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the in-your-lifetime dept.
Barence writes "Google is considering removing the beta tag from Gmail — and other online services — a mere five years after it was first launched. Google has become somewhat synonymous with seemingly endless beta cycles. Many of the company's most famous services, including Gmail, Docs, and Calendar all still carry the beta tag. Google now admits the eternal beta cycles could be damaging consumer and business confidence in its online apps. 'It's a minor annoyance and something you'll see addressed in the not-too-distant future.'"
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Google Considers Taking Beta Tag Off Gmail

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  • Whew! (Score:4, Funny)

    by homey of my owney (975234) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @08:28AM (#28122671)
    That'll make things better!
  • by RemoWilliams84 (1348761) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @08:29AM (#28122685)

    It's a minor annoyance and something you'll see addressed in the not-too-distant future.

    3000 A.D. Sha la la

  • GASP! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Deus.1.01 (946808) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @08:29AM (#28122693) Journal

    But...but...is it READY?!

    Because i still find it annoying to search for porn with my specific fetish.
    (you heard me)

  • Google Beta (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dspkable (773450) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @08:30AM (#28122703) Homepage
    I believe more people probably know what Google means then they know what Beta means. Google has become the biggest of the BIG companies (without imploding or needing government bailout). 8 to 1 searchers use Google over Microsoft Search Engine, so what Google's 'beta' is, is really what the industry standard has become.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Deus.1.01 (946808)

      Wait? "BETA" is the NEW industry standard?

      I thought releasing shoddy untested products allways was the industry standard.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by genghisjahn (1344927)
      The article is talking about gmail. Google search hasn't been in beta for quite awhile.
    • by rgviza (1303161)

      And it will be the first production software release ever, which is actually production quality.

      Most software's actual beta cycle starts with the production release and what most call beta is actually a slightly cleaned up alpha.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by dk90406 (797452)
      Besides this new "Wolfram" search thing is still in Alpha!
    • Government bailouts???

      Ok. The successes of the big three in the US FAR OUTWEIGH those of Google. In their development, they defined America and the world.
      You can't say that Google is great because it didn't implode over a little recession.

      The big three didn't need bailouts during the great depression.
      Yes they're floundering now. But that's partly due to their past successes which lead to a bloated company, high pensions, large salaries, and many many different models.

  • by MyLongNickName (822545) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @08:30AM (#28122705) Journal

    Hellmightfreezeover.

  • by lewko (195646) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @08:30AM (#28122707) Homepage

    Gmail - Acceptance Testing.

  • Hahaha (Score:2, Funny)

    by EmagGeek (574360)

    There's no way GMail is ready for "release."

    • Re:Hahaha (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Tihstae (86842) <Tihstae@gmail.com> on Thursday May 28, 2009 @08:40AM (#28122819) Homepage

      Now that they have tested that it indeed can have outages, it is ready for release. Until they had outages, it wasn't fully tested.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        GMail has ALWAYS had outages, there have been whole days where google told me it couldn't log me in, or just looped back to the login page with no message.

        • Re:Hahaha (Score:5, Funny)

          by maxume (22995) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @09:48AM (#28123711)

          And then you remembered your password?

        • Re:Hahaha (Score:4, Interesting)

          by pcolaman (1208838) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @10:58AM (#28124719)
          I've been a GMail member since you had to get an invite to sign up (bought an invite off of EBay for $0.99) and my email has been inaccessible by both web mail and POP3/IMAP exactly four times. That's just around once a year. Any other email service I've ever had has had that many outages in a single year.
          • by Xaoswolf (524554)
            Agreed, only times I've ever had problems were when I changed the password and forgot to update a mail client and had to use the captcha to unlock it. and one other time that they were down temporarily that I tried to check.
          • by drinkypoo (153816)

            Don't get me wrong, the uptime on Gmail (and really, all google services) is fantastic and to me, proves the validity or even superiority of their computing model. However, to say that they've only had one outage would be extremely disingenuous.

            • by pcolaman (1208838)
              I don't recall any post here saying that they've only had one outage, but you insinuated that they are down on a regular basis, which is definitely disingenuous.
              • by drinkypoo (153816)

                You drew an incorrect inference. What I said (which was at worst vague) was that gmail has always had outages. They have, in fact, had them before. They were actually somewhat numerous in the earlier days. I had more than four of them personally. Contrastingly, I did not experience any downtime during the last flap.

                Don't read into my comments what isn't there, and you won't experience this confusion again.

                • by pcolaman (1208838)
                  Usually when the webmail client has issues, POP3/IMAP still works fine. That's why I said four times when both do not work.
    • Re:Hahaha (Score:5, Funny)

      by CristalShandaLear (762536) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @08:54AM (#28123013) Homepage Journal

      Can I get an invite? From someone? Please? I've been wanting to try out gmail for so long. You can contact me through my blog on Blogger...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 28, 2009 @08:35AM (#28122761)

    Put a Beta Tag on Slashdot
    (in case you can't read the comment titles)

    Jesus. Why does Slashdot always look totally broken?

    • Perhaps it should be Web 2.0 RC1?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Phroggy (441)

      I liked the new AJAX comment form, but then they broke it. It's still functional, but the CSS is horked now.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 28, 2009 @08:39AM (#28122807)

    GMail Release Candidate 1.

  • by DarrenBaker (322210) <darren@nOSpAm.flim.net> on Thursday May 28, 2009 @08:42AM (#28122839) Homepage

    Oh, no! Beta!

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by DewDude (537374)
      "Coming this fall from Google Labs... GMail VHS! All the features of the Beta version in a bulkier inferior package!"
  • by spyrochaete (707033) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @08:45AM (#28122877) Homepage Journal

    How can Google be taken seriously in an enterprise environment if their most stable and successful offshoot project takes 5 years to come out of beta? They should have done this 3 years ago or more. Gmail has been sufficiently stable all this time, yet this self-deprecating beta designation has constantly served as an admission of being non-committal to SLA.

    • by harryandthehenderson (1559721) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @08:58AM (#28123057)

      How can Google be taken seriously in an enterprise environment if their most stable and successful offshoot project takes 5 years to come out of beta?

      Probably the fact that the version used by paying customers isn't a beta version? The "beta" version is the free-for-use version that they use to beta test any new features they add.

      They should have done this 3 years ago or more.

      Why? The free, public version is always going to be in a beta state since that's it's entire purpose.

      Gmail has been sufficiently stable all this time, yet this self-deprecating beta designation has constantly served as an admission of being non-committal to SLA.

      I'm pretty sure all the corporate customers they have would say otherwise.

      • by spyrochaete (707033) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @09:27AM (#28123443) Homepage Journal

        Probably the fact that the version used by paying customers isn't a beta version? The "beta" version is the free-for-use version that they use to beta test any new features they add.

        The corporate and educational versions are really no different from the free versions except that they changed the Gmail Beta jpg and added more storage. They still have a Google Labs Beta in the corporate version so that your employees can enjoy the benefit of unsupported toys like beer goggles.

      • Also, like most web apps, they are developed in some agile way.

        .

        Hence it took them 1 year to develop gmail, 1 year to get it into beta, and then 5 years to figure out what the heck they built (design), how to handle the traffic (system configuration), how to handle the users (requirements) and how to maintain it (documentation).

        .

        Funny thing is if they did it in a non-agile way, it would have taken them the same time, and looking at the way they executed/deployed it, along with the popularity of Google,

    • by Tei (520358) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @08:59AM (#28123059) Journal

      "How can Google be taken seriously in an enterprise environment if their most stable and successful offshoot project takes 5 years to come out of beta?"

      The Beta tag let Google make changes that judge will make the service much better. These changes withouth the Beta tag are mostly "disallowed". Removing the Beta tag is much like a pact "We will not make mayor changes to the service, that will break your work". In my book great changes to make a service better is a good thing, the level of breaks of Gmail is high, but I can live with it. I will feel sad that the tag will be removed, because will mean maybe much less errors (or maybe not), but It will sure mean less and less enhancements of the service. And I blame the people like YOU.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by spyrochaete (707033)

        Is email a service you can afford to lose because Google is playing with new features?

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by ragefan (267937)

          Is email a service you can afford to lose because Google is playing with new features?

          If you can not afford to lose email service, then maybe you should not depend on Google to provide the service for free.

          It's not that hard to setup your own email server and backup it up.

          • Of course it's easy to run your own mail server, but it's even easier and possibly more cost-effective to outsource it. But would you trust outsourcing to a company in perpetual beta? My original post is about Google's reputation for their long beta cycles, not how feasible the alternatives may be.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by ragefan (267937)

              But your complaint is about a free service provided by Google. If it is that critical and outsourced, then you pay for an SLA. Last I checked there is no SLA for the free version of Gmail, only the paid versions Gmail offer any SLA.

              The free version was perpetual beta because they were constantly testing new features.

      • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Thursday May 28, 2009 @10:12AM (#28124011) Homepage Journal

        Nah, Google now has the "Labs" tag in settings, so you can try out "beta" Gmail features (or stuff they just haven't yet figured out how to stuff into the interface.) In actuality, the only difference will be more clicks to turn on the new, untested stuff.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rob1980 (941751)
      The only difference between a "beta" product like Gmail and any other software product requiring monthly patches is the fact that Google is honest enough to still call their product a work in progress. Like you said it's sufficiently stable for most folks, but I'd argue that they aren't any more non-committal to their SLA than other companies are to getting their product right on the first try. And anybody in charge of purchasing software for their organization - assuming they're doing their job properly
      • My point isn't necessarily that they are correctly or incorrectly labelling their product as Beta - my point is that it's been in public beta for 5 or 6 years now and that makes this company, with record profits and over 10,000 engineers, incompetent.

  • by Hatta (162192) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @08:47AM (#28122907) Journal

    They're just moving it to Gamma.

  • by chinton (151403) <chinton001-slashdot AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday May 28, 2009 @08:50AM (#28122957) Journal
    GMail -- RC1
  • Google introduces 'charlie' status for online services. More at 11.
  • by castironpigeon (1056188) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @08:58AM (#28123049)
    ...is one of those early 90s construction signs.
    • by Spatial (1235392)
      Don't forget the spinning 'Email' GIF. Preferably with the word coming out of an envelope, or on fire.
  • NBD (Score:2, Insightful)

    by NES HQ (1558029)
    Sorry, but this is not a real big deal outside of communities like /. Beta is just another one of 'those fancy tech terms' for most folks, so regardless of whether or not Gmail is beta or not in beta millions of people will still use it as their primary mail service.
  • by netbuzz (955038) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @09:13AM (#28123269) Homepage

    At last count (last fall) almost half of Google apps were labeled beta, so it's not just a few they're talking about. At that time, Google offered a convoluted explanation for the practice that included: "We believe beta has a different meaning when applied to applications on the Web, where people expect continual improvements in a product." More here:

    http://www.networkworld.com/community/node/33131 [networkworld.com]

    • I expect continual improvements in any product that isn't dead. Web-based or otherwise. Beta just means it's not quite ready for serious use yet. Though Google and some OSS software has had very good "betas" for years.

  • by jollyreaper (513215) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @09:20AM (#28123355)

    Docs has been having problems recently with syncing. The biggest caveat of the whole cloud concept is "What do you do if you lose your connection to the cloud?" (Ok, one of the big caveats. The other is not having access to your data. If Microsoft went under tomorrow, your SQL Server won't disappear. Office will still run on the desktop. If a cloud company goes under, you may have a backup of the data from the app but who will be hosting it? They had code escrow back in the day, the company that wrote your app goes under, the source code is held in escrow and will be released to you at that time. You can hire people to perform maintenance.) Really, big business has seen this problem for decades. When offices are connected to centralized servers over frame relay and there's nothing at the remote locations but dumb terminals, losing the connection leaves you just as dead in the water as losing your internet today. Google's answer was the local cache. It works great for gmail, I can see them saying it's no longer beta.

    The problem I've encountered with docs is that "docs list" window as they call it is having trouble syncing. You create a document on one computer, it should be visible on the other within a few minutes. You can see it if you do a page refresh. The problem is the local copy doesn't sync automatically anymore. You can make that happen by syncing manually or by opening the file up while connected to the net -- it will display the old version and then flash over to the new one as it downloads.

    The problem arises when you think you're synced up and open an older document and start working on it. You last worked on it on Computer A yesterday. Computer B's copy is from four days ago. If you're away from a net connection when you open it on Computer B, you won't get a refresh and the automatic refresh you thought already happened didn't. So when you get back home you fire up Computer B so you can make sure it syncs back to the cloud, it will now try to reconcile two different versions. If you were working in separate parts of the document, you might get lucky. if any of your changes were made to the same paragraph, last edit wins.

    These sorts of problems will be esoteric to the typical end user. I can see what's going on because I'm geeky. The end user is just going to get upset because something that "just works" no longer does.

    You can't really complain about getting this kind of functionality for free but people will really start bitching if they have to pay for it.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Honestly, if your documents are that important to you, you owe it to yourself (and any clients) to work on them locally. IMO the best thing about Google Docs is Gmail integration. It's still useful to a whole class of user which doesn't really own a computer; maybe they have a fancy cellphone or something.

  • Test data (Score:5, Funny)

    by CopaceticOpus (965603) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @09:34AM (#28123553)

    If it's really a beta product, they should dump all the user data before they take it to production. After all, it is just test data. No one in their right mind would be using a beta product as their primary email provider, right?

  • all the companies that put "Beta" after the name of their services to look as cool as Google will remove it?

  • Yay! Finally we are in the release candidate stage! Another 5 years we may see ver 0.1 build 3!

    Btw, iPhone support on slashdot sucks! My 5th time trying to post this comment

  • Marketing Ploy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by pz (113803) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @10:31AM (#28124317) Journal

    Leaving beta as a part of the name of a given service well beyond the normal limit was a marketing ploy. It generated lots of press and ardent discussion. The tact has run its course. They're removing it as another marketing ploy. That will generate another wave of press and ardent discussion. Ho hum.

  • ...which is why the first thing I do when I connect is click the "HTML for slow connections" link.

    Which is silly, because I don't consider my cable or business connections very slow. In fact, most websites load just fine. Gmail simply...well, let's put it this way: By the time I get the gmail interface up, I will have already checked my personal e-mail on another machine using mutt.

    Why does Google believe we want all the "enhanced" interface that really does nothing to enhance the interface?

  • All Beta jokes aside, Google is warping (eroding) the definition of beta. GMail left beta when invitations were no longer needed to get an account. Even then, they were stretching the meaning.

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