Almost half of Google products -- including 4-year-old Gmail -- remain in beta: Why?

A whopping 45 percent of Google products remain in beta

The question has been kicked around by the technology press for some time now: Why does Google keep products in beta for so long?

Beats me, but I'm trying to find out because the Web monitoring company Pingdom has taken the time to quantify the matter: Pingdom's count shows that almost half of Google's 49 products are in beta, including such established stalwarts as Gmail -- released in April 2004 -- and Google Docs. (Pingdom intentionally left Google Labs out of the mix.)

"Everyone knows Google is fond of the beta label on its products, but we wanted some actual numbers so went through all of Google's products to see how many of them are in beta," Pingdom analyst Peter Alguacil tells me in an e-mail. "It turned out to be a whopping 45 percent. As far as we know, there is no other company that does this to the extent that Google does."

(Update: Google reply below.)

From Pingdom's blog post:

Some products you can understand why they are in beta, like Knol, Google Alerts, Custom Search, Google Chrome, etc. However, a lot of products that you wouldn't really expect are still labeled as beta.

Here are a few notable Google products that are still in beta: Gmail, Google Docs, Orkut, and Google Finance.

We're so used to seeing the little "beta" tag next to the various Google product logos that we almost don't register it anymore. We even had to double-check that Gmail really still was in beta.

As for early reaction to Pingdom's Google beta count, Vasanth Sridharan of the Silicon Alley Insider writes: "Interesting find, but probably doesn't matter -- Google's 'beta' products like Gmail and Google Docs are about as good as anyone would expect."

I've sent a few questions to Google about all of this. Will be enlightening to see what they have to say.

While we wait, if any of you should have a theory of your own, please share with the group.

(Update: Google public relations tells me that they're trying to get answers to my questions, so that's a good start.)

(Update, 9:15 p.m.: According to a Google spokesman: "We have very high internal metrics our consumer products have to meet before coming out of beta. Our teams continue to work to improve these products and provide users with an even better experience. We believe beta has a different meaning when applied to applications on the Web, where people expect continual improvements in a product. On the Web, you don't have to wait for the next version to be on the shelf or an update to become available. Improvements are rolled out as they're developed. Rather than the packaged, stagnant software of decades past, we're moving to a world of regular updates and constant feature refinement where applications live in the cloud.")

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Google

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Paul McNamara

Network World
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?