In software development, a beta test is the second phase of software testing in which a sampling of the intended audience tries the product out. (Beta is the second letter of the Greek alphabet.) Originally, the term alpha test meant the first phase of testing in a software development process. The first phase includes unit testing, component testing, and system testing. Beta testing can be considered "pre-release testing." Beta test versions of software are now distributed to a wide audience on the Web partly to give the program a "real-world" test and partly to provide a preview of the next release.
Second level, external pilot-test of a product (usually a software) before commercial quantity production. At the beta test stage, the product has already passed through the first-level, internal pilot-test (alpha test) and glaring defects have been removed. But (since the product may still have some minor problems that require user participation) it is released to selected customers for testing under normal, everyday conditions of use to spot the remaining flaws.