Home » What does Alpha and Beta mean? Can a piece of software be both? [closed]

What does Alpha and Beta mean? Can a piece of software be both? [closed]


What does it means for software to be labelled alpha or beta?


The alpha phase of the release life cycle is the first phase to begin
software testing (alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet,
used as the number 1). In this phase, developers generally test the
software using white-box techniques. Additional validation is then
performed using black-box or gray-box techniques, by another testing
team. Moving to black-box testing inside the organization is known as
alpha release.


Beta, named after the second letter of the Greek alphabet, is the
software development phase following alpha. Software in the beta stage
is also known as betaware. Beta phase generally begins when the
software is feature complete but likely to contain a number of known
or unknown bugs. Software in the beta phase will generally have
many more bugs in it than completed software, as well as
speed/performance issues and may still cause crashes or data loss. 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.

Source Software release life cycle – Wikipedia

Can a piece of software be Alpha and Beta at the same time?

Not according to the traditional definitions.

Is there any standard that defines these terms?

No. They are defined by convention.

Can a piece of software always be Alpha?

Yes, as “The alpha phase usually ends with a feature freeze, indicating that no more features will be added to the software. At this time, the software is said to be feature complete.” (1)

If it is never feature complete it will stay in the Alpha phase

Can a piece of software have never been Alpha nor Beta?

Yes. It could never leave the Pre-alpha phase.

(1) Software release life cycle – Wikipedia

Software developers are free to develop their software via any process they choose, and to test or not test as they see fit. Dabblers may sometimes approach their project in an informal, even disorganized way. The software may grow organically as things are added to what started as something trivial. They may do little testing, and make their creation available “as-is”.

Developers with a goal of producing stable software, that other people will rely on to accomplish a purpose, follow a structured development process with stages of formalized testing.

Is there any standard that defines these terms?

“Alpha” and “Beta” are terms for development phases of structured projects. They date back to the dawn of big software, often credited to IBM for formalizing it in the 1950s. The terms have conventionally-recognized meanings that are taken to apply to certain general phases of development in a structured process. David Postill’s answer already quotes the descriptions I was going to include, so I won’t repeat them here.

Can a piece of software be Alpha and Beta at the same time?

As David answered, not by the traditional definitions.

Can a piece of software have never been Alpha nor Beta?

If you mean based on conventional meanings, yes. This would apply to software in its early development, pre-alpha stage.

If you mean software released for general use without alpha or beta testing, yes again. There’s no law that says a developer can’t release software to the public at any stage of development, or without having undergone a specific level of testing. “As-is” software may be in this category.

Can a piece of software always be Alpha?

Again, by the conventional meaning, yes. This isn’t uncommon among dabblers and under-funded developers. The software never gets to the beta stage. Proprietary software in alpha often never sees the light of day. Open source efforts often share alpha software publicly, essentially expanding the in-house testing. It is shared with the understanding that it is not finished, it is incomplete, it is expected to have serious bugs, it is unsupported, and it cannot be relied on to accomplish the purpose for which it is being developed.

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