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Private vs. Public Beta Testing

Private and public beta tests are very different animals. They have different goals, strategies, and risks. While they’re very distinct, they’re also often confused, since both happen during the exciting period leading up to the launch of a product.

The table below gives a quick overview of the key differences between private and public betas so you can select the right type of test for your goals and situation. Do keep in mind that this is not an either/or situation. Many companies run both private and public beta tests to get the most out of each type of beta test prior to their product’s release.

Private BetasPublic Betas
OwnerProduct Management or QualityMarketing
AccessInvite by companyOpen or invited by other testers
ParticipantsDozens to hundredsThousands to millions
GoalsBugs, performance, accuracy, acceptanceMarketing, load testing, data collection
Feedback LoopConstant engagementMinimal (forums/email) or none
Feedback TypeBugs, features, suggestions, tasks, surveys, forumsBugs, forums, surveys, email, or none
Product TypeAll technology productsOnline games, websites, some apps
Also Known AsClosed beta, field trial, user acceptance testing (UAT), customer acceptance testing (CAT), customer validation, prereleaseOpen beta, marketing beta, stress test, load test
Tester QualificationsTarget demographic specific to productLimited or no requirements
DurationFixed time (weeks to months)Open length of time until release
IncentivesProject incentives for tester engagementNone
Product SecurityNon-disclosure agreement (NDA), test agreement, license agreementLicense only
RecruitmentStaged (recruit, select, NDA, test)Flat (recruit direct to access)
DistributionPre-release system or production-readyProduction-ready usually required
ExposureSecret and undisclosedPublic and promoted

Public beta tests serve a key role in the development of many products and can be a great supplement to a private beta testing program. For more on how to leverage public beta tests, download our free whitepaper below. Good luck with your next public (or private) beta test!

Download Using Public Betas as a Launch Tool now!

P.S. If you’re more interested in private betas, download our confidentiality whitepaper instead, which focuses on maintaining secrecy and handling beta leaks during your prelaunch testing.