Why does Mark Zuckerberg hate "beta" development?

You know how everything Google does is launched in a “beta” mode. They know that their products are most likely going to break, fail, or simply invade your privacy. Google is so obsessed with beta releases that they often leave them in perpetual beta.

So why is Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg so against beta?

This massive company with more than 800 million users just rolls out new features to the entire group. One day you know how to use Facebook and the next day everything is different.

Then, as has happened 17 times before, they roll back and change many of those features because they weren’t tested properly with a large enough user group (i.e. beta testers).

A description of beta from Wikipedia:

It generally begins when the software is feature complete. The focus of beta testing is reducing impacts to users, often incorporating usability testing. The process of delivering a beta version to the users is called beta release and this is typically the first time that the software is available outside of the organization that developed it.

The users of a beta version are called beta testers. They are usually customers or prospective customers of the organization that develops the software, willing to test the software without charge, often receiving the final software free of charge or for a reduced price.

This practice is so common in the tech industry that it shocking that Facebook hasn’t had it from the start. I guarantee everyone at that company has experience with beta releases of products. Well maybe not everyone…

Perhaps, Mark Zuckerberg started so young at Facebook that he never learned the value of beta testing. A lot of people want to compare him to Steve Jobs and so maybe this is his own reality distortion field, “it should be so good we don’t need beta!”

Still, that doesn’t explain the stubbornness after having new updates to Facebook continually blow-up in his face. I’m sure that after each blow-up someone has said, “Hey Mark, this is what beta releases are for”.

Yet, here we are with the new auto-sharing feature instantly pushed live and everyone is complaining about it. The feature is brilliant but incomplete. Their are simple mistakes in the usability, like the problem with the “cancel” button that Marshall Kirkpatrick found.

This is such a simple fix, i.e. change the wording of the button so it’s not “pushy, manipulative and user-hostile.”

If found and fixed during beta it would have been a non-issue. Instead the flailing public is in hysteria and that crucial “first-impression” is of ruining sharing (Molly Wood) or gaslighting the web (Anil Dash).

It boggles the mind why Mark wants to avoid beta releases so bad that he enrages his user base.

There is hope. The new feature, Facebook Timeline, is in a semi-beta release in that it was open to developers early for testing. The tech journalists quickly hacked this and reported it to average users. Who then signed up as developers, created a fake app, and clicked several buttons that they had no idea what they were doing.

A surprising amount actually did all that, myself included, which means there definitely is an appetite for Facebook beta testers. Plus, Facebook has delayed releasing Timeline allowing all those users to test out the features. The situation looks an awful lot like a beta release…

Maybe Mark is realizing the value of beta testing? Or, at least the value of releasing a finished product as opposed to a brilliant but incomplete idea?

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *