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I am running a test on a new Rails app and am doing an open beta from the start. You see these companies with private betas, and I'm wondering, what is the exact point of a private beta. If you inform users, shouldn't they just be allowed to use it?

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up vote 11 down vote accepted

There are a couple of reasons I can think of.

  1. Ultimately you want beta testers, not people who just want early access for free. Having a closed beta is one way to achieve this.

  2. You want to find new bugs with your testers. If you let everyone on the beta at once, you might get 100 people logging the same bug, if you fix that bug that say 10 people log, then open up to another 10 testers, then fix those bugs then repeat, you will get a lot more value than a big, open beta.

  3. A closed beta makes your testers feel privileged, this makes them more emotionally attached to the product.

  4. If you make providing feedback a "condition of entry" you will get more value than from an open beta.

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I see. You made some awesome points there. While I will still be starting with an open beta now (too late), I'll make sure to do that later. Thanks! –  Ian Carroll Feb 12 '13 at 1:25
    
Glad I could help. –  Bruce McLeod Feb 12 '13 at 2:32
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You can always close the beta once it's open, with the option of providing invites and perhaps an application process. So perhaps not closed, but "Open with a bouncer outside the Roxbury". Phrase it "Due to the overwhelming response to the open beta, we are forced to limit entry to the beta for a brief period." or something. –  corsiKa Feb 12 '13 at 15:47
    
Love the bouncer comment :-) –  Bruce McLeod Feb 12 '13 at 22:21
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There are a number of reasons for a private beta that I can think of:

  1. You may not have a full infrastructure in place to support any number of people using the service, but know you can support X users.
  2. There may be certain "user profiles" you are targeting, so you will open the beta to those users who you know fit the profile.
  3. You could have an NDA as part of the closed beta to keep information about your new product out of the hands of competitors.
  4. Staff may not be able to handle the amount of feedback from many users.
  5. Getting an invitation to a closed beta generates excitement and makes people feel special, and more likely to sign up.

I'm sure there are more, those were off the top of my head.

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You made some of the points Bruce made. I think you were both "right". –  Ian Carroll Feb 12 '13 at 1:28
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