A beta test is a type of testing period for a computer product prior to any sort of commercial or official release. Beta testing is considered the last stage of testing, and normally involves distributing the product to beta test sites and individual users ("beta testers") outside the company for real-world exposure. Other beta tests may simply offer the product for a free trial download over the Internet.
Beta testing is often preceded by a round of testing called alpha testing.
Being a Beta Tester
All types of computer products, from operating systems to computer games are usually beta tested before general release. In fact, many software publishers and developers will have beta tester application forms that can be submitted online. When you enroll as a beta tester you will typically receive an email notification that a beta version is available for download.
Beta testers are required to follow the directions of the company. For example, you may be required to sign a form (or indicate with a digital agreement) to not write about the product or post screenshots while beta testing. Usually, you will be asked to provide feedback and to report any bugs to the publisher.
Open Versus Closed Beta Testing
Some software, particularly PC game software will have multiple stages of beta testing, called open or closed beta. The closed beta immediately follows the alpha testing and it is open to a limited or selected group of beta testers. At times, and often to test specific features, the software would be made available to the general public for a short length of time. This public testing is the open beta.
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