Dave, this is a simple question, but profound: how come almost every new tool that Google releases stays in “beta” forever?
This is a fascinating question and one that I’ve wondered too, as I’ve watched Orkut come and go in the public eye, Gmail shake up the entire world of free Web-based email, Google News get slapped with a lawsuit for misappropriation of intellectual property, Google Catalog Search and Froogle gain surprisingly little visibility, and Google Scholar hit some privacy-related turbulence in its young life. What do all of these have in common? They’re all described as either loosely “in affiliation with” or, more typically, still in “beta” stage.
Finally, I found an answer on the Google site that explains why they’re so darn taciturn about moving projects out of beta and into full production. This is from the FAQ associated with their recent April Fool’s prank, Google Gulp, but the answer feels like it applies to all of their products, somehow:
Man, if you pressure us, you just drive us away. We’ll commit when we’re ready, okay? Besides, what’s so great about taking things out of beta? It ruins all the romance, the challenge, the possibilities, the right to explore. Carpe diem, ya know? Maybe we’re jaded, but we’ve seen all these other companies leap headlong into 1.0, thinking their product is exactly what they’ve been dreaming of all their lives, that everything is perfect and hunky-dory and the next thing you know some vanilla copycat release from Redmond is kicking their butt, the Board is holding emergency meetings and the CEO is on CNBC blathering sweatily about “a new direction” and “getting back to basics.” No thanks, man. We like our freedom.
So now you know.