What is a Beta Release?
A beta release is a software version given to a large pool of users to test its usability, efficiency, security and stability in the real world. All of the software’s key functions and features are working and have been subjected to internal testing but require further testing. The beta release is the second testing phase in the traditional software development lifecycle and follows the alpha release.
For a product to be eligible for beta release, it should:
- Have all key features expected of the final product.
- Be predictable and have few crashes.
- Be available to real users drawn from the product’s target market.
- Require users perform real world tasks in a real world software/hardware/network environment mirroring that intended for the final release.
Beta testers are usually a broad representation of the system’s different types of everyday users operating under diverse hardware environments. That said, a beta release may be open or closed. Open beta is accessible to the public while closed beta is available to a limited set of invited testers. Closed beta is usually applied where developers want to target a particular demographic or if there are logistical/resource limitations on scaling.
The rationale for beta testing is that developers may be too attached to their product to pick up all major flaws. Fresh eyes are likely to have a more unbiased view. Following beta testing and the resultant feedback, developers fix identified bugs and make appropriate changes. If there are no major issues, the application is good enough for full release. If there are significant problems, an updated beta version is released for retesting.
A beta release may apply to the entire product or a newly introduced feature.