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Google lifts 'beta' label from Gmail, other programs

For what seemed like an eternity in the technology world, Google's Gmail service lurked in beta, keeping devotees guessing as to what bugs remained in the system or what life-changing feature the company had yet to unveil.Five years passed. Gmail added millions of users, a chat function, mobile-phone applications and even a function that lets you undo messages after pressing "send." Yet the e-mail program stubbornly carried a "beta" label, which traditionally means a product is still in prototype mode. Gmail finally emerged from beta Tuesday, along with Google Calendar, Google Docs and Google Talk. The world continued spinning on its axis. And Google recognized on its Gmail blog that for many people, "the very meaning of 'beta' is debatable" because Web-based "products like Gmail continue to change indefinitely."Terms like "alpha," "beta," and even "gamma" -- a phase that photo-sharing site Flickr declared in 2006 -- are just Greek to most users. But Google sells a bundle of its applications, including Gmail, Calendar and Docs, to businesses. Matthew Glotzbach, director of product management for Google Enterprise, blogged on Tuesday that the beta tag "just doesn't fit for large enterprises that aren't keen to run their business on software that sounds like it's still in the trial phase."
The lifting of the beta label, then, should keep Google's paying customers happy. And for regular users who just can't bear to see their baby grow up, Google offers a way to keep Gmail in beta forever. Simply go to "Labs" under "Settings" and choose the "Back to Beta" option, which restores the little "beta" label to the logo.

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