Google's Definition of Beta

So for, like, forever Google apps — in particular, Gmail and Google Calendar — have bore a beta label. Now, no one has any idea why this has been the case, but this week Google has decided to remove the beta label with little more than PR-speak as an explanation:

"We realize this situation puzzles some people, particularly those who subscribe to the traditional definition of “beta” software as not being yet ready for prime time." (via John Gruber)

Gruber himself retorts:

"Imagine that — people thought that what Google meant by “beta” was what everyone else means by “beta”. Shocking"

Classic Gruber.

Now, I've heard Google spin it this way all over the web, but what I keep wondering is what Google's special, newfangled, hi-falutin' definition of beta actually is. The closest I've seen is this:

"Others say that, over the last five years, a beta culture has grown around web apps, such that the very meaning of "beta" is debatable. And rather than the packaged, stagnant software of decades past, we're moving to a world of rapid developmental cycles where products like Gmail continue to change indefinitely."

Um... What the hell are you guys talking about? Really. What is a "beta culture?" Seriously. What is that? And are you telling me that Google's apps are the only ones to "change  indefinitely." That's funny, because I keep running these software update thingies on my computer and all its applications. And every year or so I install new versions of said apps, loaded with new features. So tell me again: How is your definition of beta different than everyone else's? And why in the name of sweet merciful heaven has Gmail been beta for the past five years?

Ridiculous! And the more you try to spin it the more arrogant and full-of-it you come across.

Just admit it. You're afraid to commit. It's okay. We get it. There's no shame in that.

The Beta Setting

The oddest thing is that Google clearly thinks of the term beta as completely meaningless:

"Don't despair... for those of you long-time Gmail-ers who might feel some separation anxiety, we've got a solution. Just go to Settings, click on Labs, turn on "Back to Beta," and it'll be like Gmail never left beta at all."

That's right. You want the beta label back? Just turn it on. Which begs the question, why did they use the term for the past five years?

It's just stupid.