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 testing is also sometimes referred to as user acceptance testing (UAT) or end user testing. In this phase of software development, applications are subjected to real world testing by the intended audience for the software. The experiences of the early users are forwarded back to the developers who make final changes before releasing the software commercially.
For in-house testing, volunteers or paid test subjects use the software. For widely-distributed software, developers may make the test version available for downloading and free trial over the Web. Another purpose of making software widely available in this way is to provide a preview and possibly create some buzz for the final product.