[NOTE: Here’s the lead story from last week’s Technologizer’s T-Week newsletter–go here to sign up to receive it each Friday. You’ll get original stuff that won’t show up on the site until later, if at all.]
Once upon a time, everybody agreed that the fact a product was in beta testing meant that it wasn’t yet ready for prime time. When I started writing about technology back in the early 1990s, pre-release versions of applications never got anything approaching mass distribution; I remember acquiring a beta copy of Windows 95, as a member of the press, and feeling extraordinarily privileged.
But times changed–and so did the role of betas. The Internet made distributing prerelease software cheap and easy, so many companies began releasing applications widely. Today, if you’re curious about an upcoming version of a program, there’s a very good chance you’ll be able to download a beta and try it for free. (With stuff like Web browsers, life without widespread betas is nearly unimaginable.)