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/bā-tə/ or (Commonwealth) /bē-tə/

n. 1. In the Real World, software often goes through two stages of testing: Alpha (in-house) and Beta (out-house?). Software is said to be 'in beta'.

2. Anything that is new and experimental is in beta. "His girlfriend is in beta" means that he is still testing for compatibility and reserving judgment.

3. Beta software is notoriously buggy, so 'in beta' connotes flakiness.

Historical note: More formally, to beta-test is to test a pre-release (potentially unreliable) version of a piece of software by making it available to selected customers and users. This term derives from early 1960s terminology for product cycle checkpoints, first used at IBM but later standard throughout the industry. 'Alpha Test' was the unit, module, or component test phase; 'Beta Test' was initial system test. These themselves came from earlier A- and B-tests for hardware. The A-test was a feasibility and manufacturability evaluation done before any commitment to design and development. The B-test was a demonstration that the engineering model functioned as specified. The C-test (corresponding to today's beta) was the B-test performed on early samples of the production design.