Written by Nicolas Mertens
What is the maximum period for a beta stage? Can you stay in beta forever if you want to? What are the downsides and the benefits for an eternal beta stage?
These questions arose when my mother saw me using Gmail. After explaining to her that this is like an online version of Outlook she got quite interested. So she could have her email at home as well as in the office? Without downgrading on features? That is something she must have! Up and until then she actually consulted her inbox through a free webmail service from her provider, but whenever she sent a reply she printed out a copy… she held these in a map called “webmail sent items”, because those mails sent didn’t reappear in her outbox at home.
A long, but funny, introduction for getting my mother into web2.0! But it seemed I had underestimated her. While I was still having fun about her printouts, my smile quickly disappeared when she nailed it with the following question:
When is this coming out of beta stage?
I was stunned, I didn’t know. And she was right on the money! When I told her I have been using this for about four years (2004), the tables had turned. She thought it was funny how I could use Gmail for personal and business use while Google had no reason to ensure my mailing was in safe hands. No obligations whatsoever.
Along with the IMAP function and Google Docs introduction a lot of users started using GMAIL as their professional inbox. Able to send out mails from their [email protected] address, it made their lifes much easier. But email is so important to companies nowadays that they back it up on their own servers. Not with Gmail though, it is stored safely on the Google-servers…
After reading the Terms of Service of Gmail, I noticed that they could never, under any circumstances, be held responsible for data loss… They can even change their whole service without having to notify you. For example, their “unlimited” storage that they always used as an eyecatcher. They are allowed to set a fixed upper limit at any time, whenever they feel like doing so.
In the end I believe Gmail is a great service, that really changed the way email worked for me. Fact is that there is a real threat for companies, small or big, who already started using Google’s mail. Or Docs and Calendar for that matter!
So, again, how long can you keep something in beta stage?