Alpha, Beta, and Sometimes Gamma


Imho releases go like:
Alpha = Not feature-complete
Beta = Mostly feature-complete(but buggy)
RC = Last test, will be rebranded to gold if no critical bugs, assumed to be bugfree
Gold = Final release, same code as last RC


Ancients greeks had a numeric system based on letters, so a=1, b=2


I am working my last day with my current employer today. I ended up giving 4 weeks notice to complete a project to a Beta release. I think we are really still in the Alpha stage since there are a few missing pieces of the software. None that inhibit the successful use of the system, but they were on my feature list for this release.

I decided to move those from the main delivery to the second version. Other than that, the code is complete and works like a champ. I would’ve preferred about 2 more months of testing and tweaking before releasing it, but it’s a solid build.

My fear was that I would leave and they would scrap the past 18 months of development since there was no one to compelte the process. That has happened in the past. So, I rushed the beta release so users could actually see our work and hopefully prod my former employer into a final release of the product. It could backfire on me, but if history holds, I will be blamed for everything that breaks anyway…



When I was at Borland we had a few products actually go into Gamma. At that time they WERE what is now referred to as RC.



Ancients greeks had a numeric system based on letters, so a=1, b=2

What? They didn’t use ASCII? :slight_smile:


I also think that calling it a beta gives them more of a reason to not charge for this service. We can’t charge for GMail it’s still in beta!

Except Google rarely charge consumers for their service, and I bet the advertisers are paying. Or do you think it is Beta / free advertising? :slight_smile:


Gmail (as well as other Google products) remain in beta because it gives them an excuse not to provide full support to end users :slight_smile:


Perhaps gamma and delta releases are not commonly used because those word have other meanings to developers. I would be afraid that people might think that my gamma release was the release that now included monitor color correction, or that the delta release was a small installer that only contained changes from the previous version.


Alpha and Beta designations shift the responsibility for testing to users. Back when versioning was still en vogue, one could easily figure out how close to being done a product really is. Ever since Microsoft introduced the idiotic term friendly error messages and product numbering designed for branding (windows 95 and so on), software quality was getting worse. Name such as Product XYZ 2008 does not tell you anything about the version or the number of previous releases.

In spite of all the advances in tools and hardware, software quality has gotten worse over the years. Very likely because objective reporting of its completion status was abandoned in favor of branding.


Well, the Wiki article seems to be a precis of the ‘beta’ entry in the Jargon File:


One of the developers I work with has this as his email signature:

Beta doesn’t mean 'beta


Maybe this is because web apps don’t have version numbers. So the creators are reluctant to call it finished.


If you look at GMail you’ll see that it is infact still in a beta but not the beta of typical software, as its not typical software. Google rather consistantly makes ‘improvements’ to GMail, that would not be classed as bugs.

I also think that calling it a beta gives them more of a reason to not charge for this service. We can’t charge for GMail it’s still in beta!


Looks like IBM pioneered yet another computer convention. I’ve actually always wondered this myself. On a side note, why does the beta symbol look like the German ss symbol ()?

So is almost ready for beta, eh? What does one have to do to be a part of it? :wink:


I’ve not heard gold for a while - it’s all RTM now (release to manufacturing).



I’ve not heard gold for a while - it’s all RTM (release to manufacturing) these days.



Microsoft likes to use RC0, in place of the final beta. I don’t quite understand the semantics. I think it means: It was supposed to be another beta but we had to freeze the feature set so it’s a pre-RC RC.


Isn’t Micro$oft the only company that uses Release Candidate?


So what do you call the just wait for the X.1 release routine? :wink:


Gold doesn’t really work for web projects except in the abstract, since Gold refers to the master made for producing the discs. Final doesn’t really work, either, since you’re constantly incrementing your code.

The project I’m currently working on (as my job, anyway) is referred to as being in Maintenance. It’s done, we might occasionally add new features, but primarily we’re fixing bugs. We’re pushing for a new version to get all of the technology a little more up to date, but we can do a lot of the technology upgrades under the maintenance phase as well if we get special funding on an item-by-item basis.

A lot of people use the release candidate term, see Mozilla, for example (Firefox 3 is out of RC status now, right?). Using RC0 would probably also be pretty common in places where naming a product that isn’t going on the shelf is determined by developers instead of marketing people. In theory there’s no real reason why something would remain beta if they’ve done a freeze on it for release anyway, as that’s pretty much the definition of release candidate.