Beta testing is a process where the software is sent to people outside the company, to be tested. Beta Testing carries with it an understanding that the software can contain numerous bugs and rough edges. In a "closed" Beta, the communications and participants are strictly controlled, but in an "open" Beta, members of the public are free to join or leave in an adhoc manner. Sometimes the Beta Testing label is applied to a soft launch, as an upfront apology for the remaining bugs.
Pssst. Want to be notified when the book is ready? It's written for people just like you.