On the meaning of "beta" version…

One of the most common complaint on KOffice beta is the lack of stability, and issues related to file handling. While I have already mentioned how critical those two issues where for the final release, it sounds like the real meaning of the word got lost.

For KOffice we follow the classical terminology, which means that beta is the testing stage that happen after feature freeze, following on this what Wikipedia says: “Often this stage begins when the developers announce a feature freeze on the product, indicating that no more feature requirements will be accepted for this version of the product.” And later it goes on to “Beta version software is likely to be useful for internal demonstrations and previews to select customers, but unstable and not yet ready for release.” Which is indeed what KOffice’s state is right now, it can demonstrates the new way of user interactions, you can use it to get a glimpse of what it will be, but not for a day to day use (unless you are ready to accept crashes, data loss, and/or to spend a little time to fix those issues as you encounter them). The Beta stage is also a stage where we feel more ready to get bug report, and even input from users on the new features (there is still time to change some things before the release on that area, as it was shown in the following days of the Berlin Meeting).

So that leave me to wonder, why that meaning is lost ? I read someone mentionning that in the past beta software, especially in the proprietary world, were nearly finished product with very few left glitches, which is in fact not true, until recently, the beta step in the proprietary world was limited to a set of selected people who got early beta for early testing, it’s only recently that the beta stage in the proprietary world got more open at an earlier stage. But I come to wonder if the real reason doesn’t come from the “Web 2.0″, with all websites being labeled as beta, while being well working. I do think that it was Google that started this fashion, and the real reason was that it is finished product but with limited server power.

All that to said, that yes we are aware that KOffice is currently not stable, not ready for production stage, and that if you want to help, reporting bugs is a good way.

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One Response to On the meaning of "beta" version…

  1. Kevin Kofler says:

    I think it’s not just Web 2.0 which is causing this effect. There’s plenty of software which releases only beta releases in years, either because they don’t have the necessary manpower to complete their release objectives or because they’re just scared of declaring the release “official”. I’m guilty of it myself, just look at TIGCC, where I in fact absolutely recommend that everyone should use only beta versions, the “stable” version being completely outdated and actually more buggy than the betas. But TIGCC is by far not the only project like that.

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