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As a software developer who was developing software before the terms "alpha" and "beta" got invented, I can categorically state that the way people use the term "beta" is completely stupid, and a complete perversion of what this term was supposed to mean originally, which was testing by a LIMITED group of expert testers/customers outside of the company. Once a piece of software is available to the general public, it is, by definition, a release, not a beta test. Calling your public release a "beta" is just like saying "we are releasing this software but we think it sucks". No software is perfect. You ever see Windows version 2.0? Now, that was BAD software, but at least they didn't call it "beta". Once you release software to the public, go with it, you have released the software. The time for making apologies and excuses is over.

Seriously its been THREE YEARS. Hello, stop calling it beta.

  • 3
    FYI gmail was beta for over five years, long after it was available to the general public. – yannis Aug 22 '14 at 8:51
  • do you want to know how long until this site graduates, or to rant about the name of sites that haven't graduated yet? Your title disagrees with your body. Beta sites continue to settle their on topic and off topic areas, to develop their tag hierarchies, and so on. They are different from graduated sites and they are different for a reason. – Kate Gregory Sep 30 '14 at 22:15
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First off, it's not the site's software that's in beta. It's the site's user-base, community and content that are in beta. The site's software is stable enough, and in use by all other Stack Exchange sites.

Furthermore, in software development, the beta testing phase is always a temporary phase before the final release. It's not an evaluation phase, in the sense that a software in beta will not be abandoned without a release if the beta doesn't fulfill expectations. It's purely a functional stage to reach more testers. In Stack Exchange, though, the 'beta' moniker suggests that a site is "in probation", and can be shut down at any point if it is determined that it will never reach the minimal criteria for existence. That's a completely different state of being compared to software's beta-testing phase.

In essence, these are two entirely distinct terms - do not try to apply logic or experience with software beta testing to Stack Exchange's beta sites, because other than sharing a name and a vague relation to being "preliminary", they are separate and different concepts.

And finally, as Yannis Rizos mentions, all of this can be found in our site's Help Center, which contains, among many other useful tidbits of information, a succinct and precise explanation of what "beta" means.

  • Without delving into your "definition" of beta (is this documented somewhere?), perhaps the pertinent question is "What are the criteria for an SE site to no longer be in 'beta'"? (I have the sinking feeling that answer to this question is: "There is no criteria, its just whatever we feel like flipping doing, so just keep guessing, maybe we'll get around to having a committee powow about your site in another 3 years, maybe not, who knows... what exactly do you mean by criteria again?") – Tyler Durden Aug 21 '14 at 19:32
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    There are, indeed, criteria. Go to Area 51, which is the stack exchange site for nominating new sites, and see the stats: area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/5169/history – Avner Shahar-Kashtan Aug 21 '14 at 20:08
  • I see, so, we have a questions-per-day problem, hmmm. Obviously people are not curious enough about history. – Tyler Durden Aug 21 '14 at 20:12
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    What does "beta" mean? – yannis Aug 21 '14 at 20:54
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The beta will be over when it seems likely that History.SE will be a permanent, self-sustaining, high-quality community. Unlike software, where you can measure things like missing features and unfixed bugs, determining when a community is golden is subjective. As it turns out, we look at a few objective statistics (such as those on Area 51) and a few subjective datapoint (such as the self-evaluations). I've kept my eye on this site and I honestly think y'all are very close to graduation.

That's why I'm suggesting a weekly topic challenge.

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This question is about a year old, but it comes up in some form a lot, and there is some new information to provide on the subject.

The SE network has decided to reassess how site graduation (and closure) is handled. This is an ongoing process, but the current state of affairs appears to be:

  • Graduation - 10 questions per day is the current threshold for consideration for graduation. For reference, we've been bouncing around between 3 and 6 for the last quarter, with a slight but noticeable upward trend.
  • Closure - As long as a stack can properly keep itself clean (handle flags and spam, enforce "niceness", etc.) then it won't be a candidate for closure.

So it looks like we will probably remain in "beta" for a while, but that's not so bad. There has been some discussion on possibly renaming that state to try to remove the stigma.

It also looks like they are in the early phases of trying to give sites automatic "graduated" privileges based on milestones*, much like is currently done with users. If you've got an opinion on what that should look like, feel free to hop over to meta.stackexchange.com and participate in the discussions.

* - If you follow the link there, make sure to read the first answer too.

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