Commentary
4/17/2008
01:00 PM
Eric Ogren
Eric Ogren
Commentary

How Long Is Gmail Going To Stay In 'Beta'?

For that matter, how long are all of Google's services going to remain as beta -- and not v1.0 -- releases? Gmail has been around for years, and has yet to graduate to a full version of software. Is there a hold up? And does it really matter?



For that matter, how long are all of Google's services going to remain as beta -- and not v1.0 -- releases? Gmail has been around for years, and has yet to graduate to a full version of software. Is there a hold up? And does it really matter?It's just a question. (And probably an inane one, I fully admit.) Everything Google does is in beta mode. Normally, beta versions of software are released to limited groups of people who test it out and report back bugs. I don't know how many users Gmail has, but it has to number in the millions. I think "millions" goes beyond the scope of any beta program. And most betas last several months, not several years.

Is it the spirit of the beta that Google wishes to keep? There's no doubt that it continues to offer new functionalities and features as it tweaks Gmail and other programs. (Gmail is officially a version 2.0 beta.) If you follow any of the official Google blogs, just about every day one of them is announcing a new feature to this product or that.

After yesterday's temporary Gmail and GChat outage, it appears that further tweaking is required. In all the years that I've been using Gmail, yesterday's IMAP brownout was the first trouble I've ever had with the e-mail program. Since I didn't need to be accessing Gmail with any of my IMAP-configured devices, it wasn't a big deal to me, but I am sure many were affected.

Despite the problem, Google's track record is better than mobile enterprise e-mail provider Research In Motion's if you look at the last 12 months. Both BlackBerry BIS and BES services have faced temporary outages. They were slightly more egregious than Gmail's 30-minute blackout, instead lasting between four and eight hours. Google claims 99.9% uptime per year. I am sure 0.5 hours of downtime in 8,760 hours (in a year) meets that claim.

What achievements Google's Gmail needs to make before it graduates to a full-fledged v1.0 program is up for debate.

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