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Be aware before going beta!

Today Microsoft released Internet Explorer 9 Beta. Before rushing out to download and install this it is important to note the keyword there "Beta". What this means is this is not the full official release of the new browser.

So if a beta is not a full release then what is it? Well a beta is basically a test version of the software program.

When a browser, or any other software, is written it goes through multiple stages as different features are added in and bugs are tested and so on. The way each software developer works and classes these stages vary.

The first stages are commonly known as pre-alpha and alpha stages. Generally speaking these stages are not released to the general public. They may be only tested internally, or to a select group of testers.

After that, the software reaches the beta stage. Often this is when it is released to the general public for testing. There may be several different beta versions released over the course of the software's development process. In the beta stage software is usually pretty close in functionality and in design to how the final release will be, but a lot of bugs may need to still be worked out.

Google's gmail was actually in beta for years and was widely used before they finally removed the "beta" tag half way through last year.

There may be other versions released after beta such as RC (Release Candidate) and RTM (Release To Manufacturing) before the official full release is made.

So when considering using any software that is in the beta stage, be aware that it is still undergoing testing and may crash, may not work how it should and may have security holes in it. You may also not find a lot of support for the product from the developer or anyone else until it officially becomes a full release. Having said that it's possible to also see and use a lot of new features that aren't available in the current full version software.

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