Stretching The Definition Of “Beta”

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The race to incorporate the latest innovations and enhancements into Internet software programs has major Internet players and startups alike radically changing the meaning of the beta test.

Formerly a period of controlled testing, the beta has evolved into an open forum in which hundreds of thousands of users can gain access to beta code. The result: more rigorous testing and a new way to distribute software, say users and vendors.

Microsoft Corp., Netscape Communications Corp., SunSoft Inc., Progressive Networks Inc., and VocalTec Inc. are just a few Internet developers putting their unfinished wares on the Net.

While desktop applications, World Wide-Web browsers, and add- ons remain the primary beta wares freely available, Microsoft took the process to the next level last week when it made available for free over the Internet its first Internet Information Server.

Users are faced with the proverbial double-edged sword.

“It seems that wherever I turn, the software I am downloading is a beta product,” …

 

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