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Half baked: 45 percent of Google projects in beta

Several Google projects really are prototypes, but a Pingdom tally finds 45 percent of Google projects are labeled beta. Time to commit, Google.

Google has an infamous propensity to keep projects in beta for an unusually long time, and now somebody has gone to the trouble of quantifying just how widespread the testing tag is at the Internet giant.

"Of the 49 Google products we could find, 22 are in beta. That's 45 percent," not including Google Labs projects, according to a Wednesday blog post at Pingdom, a Web site performance monitoring company. "We're so used to seeing the little 'beta tag next to the various Google product logos that we almost don't register it anymore. We even had to double-check that Gmail really still was in beta."

Google told me a few months ago the beta tag would come off Gmail "soon," but clearly the company is leery of doing so.

Royal Pingdom was mystified by Google's criteria for beta labeling, and I have been, too.

It's true that it's easier to treat Web-based apps as a work in progress: a company can upgrade the entire user base to a new version of Flickr, say, just by updating the software on the central servers rather than having to cajole millions of users to install a patch. But there comes a point where labeling something as beta gives the impression that the project's backer is scared to make a commitment to prospective users or customers.

And sometimes Google seems conflicted. For example, Google offers a Gmail service level agreement to paying Google Apps customers, and the point of an SLA is to assure business customers they can count on something working. Yes, Gmail has been in flux since its introduction in 2004, but enough is enough. I'm a little surprised Microsoft doesn't make more hay of this when taking potshots at its rival.

Here's Pingdom's full list of Google beta projects:
• Alerts br>
• Blog Search br>
• Book Search br>
• Google Chrome br>
• Finance br>
• Google Health br>
• Patent search br>
• Product Search br>
• Scholar br>
• Video br>
• Custom Search br>
• Calendar br>
• Docs br>
• Gmail br>
• Knol br>
• Orkut br>
• Talk br>
• Translate br>
• Google Pack br>
• Base br>
• Image Labeler br>
• News Archive Search br>