Dreamwidth.org: Launch timeline
We have completed closed beta.
The closed beta phase is our testing and final-pass stage, coordinated by our QA lead domtheknight. During this phase, the QA team is aggressively testing all the changes that we've made to make sure we haven't introduced any serious bugs. (Or, rather, to make sure that we've found and fixed all of the bugs we've accidentally introduced.) Account creation is limited to those who are actively testing.
It's likely, during this phase, that www.dreamwidth.org and all associated pages will be intermittently available as we make our changes. There'll also be frequent code updates as we add the final features and make the final changes in preparation for open beta.
During this phase, we're also fine-tuning and configuring the hardware for our actual production environment, handling the last configuration steps, and in general getting everything ready for an influx of people moving in.
Our current rough-guess estimate about how long the closed-beta phase will take is between 4-6 weeks. This is, of course, subject to change as we find more things that need to be fixed.
- We are currently in open beta. Open beta launched April 30, 2009.
- Open-beta blocking tickets: things that must be completed before our open beta date.
The date for open beta has been set based on how much bugfixing work we're going to have to do and how much time it's going to take us to get the production environment set up and configured. All of the bugs we identified during closed beta will be fixed; we'll be working on adding the final finishing touches throughout this entire phase.
The purpose of our open beta phase is to let people move in and start using the site as they normally would: posting, reading, commenting, etc. At this point, the site will be running on production hardware, using dedicated hosting, so that we can gather more data about site performance under load. We'll use that data to determine what level of hardware support and bandwidth allowance we'll need for our first months of operation by watching the performance levels here. This means that the site performance may be rocky from time to time until we can get the configuration and hardware balance right.
During this phase, expect frequent releases! We'll be taking user feedback into account and making changes to how things work, what they look like, and how they should operate. (We'll also be establishing the channels for people to use to provide us that feedback and to hear about what's going on with the site.) This means that if something's not working the way you want it to work when you move in, there's a pretty good chance that it'll be fixed quickly. The majority of our development effort through the open-beta phase will be going to small fixes, either in form or in function, to better match how our users start using the site. (There are a lot of things we know we want to do, but in order to know how to do them, we need to see how people are using the site first.)
Open beta will be, for the majority of people, their first chance to create an account. At the beginning of the open beta phase, and to commemorate the launch of the site, we'll sell 400 permanent accounts (costing $200 each). Also, during the whole open beta phase, anyone who purchases a paid account (at $25/year or $40/year depending on the level) will be able to immediately create that account without needing an invite code. In recognition of the fact that we may undergo periods of unstable service, we're discounting the cost of paid accounts for the open beta phase as a "thank you" to those who choose to move in with us while we're still painting the walls and rearranging the furniture.
To create a free account, you'll need an invite code from a friend who already has a Dreamwidth account. (If none of your friends has a code available, check with dw_codesharing.) This is to make sure that we can control site growth in a reasonable and responsible fashion. Every month, we'll look at our performance and activity levels from the previous month and decide how many more users we can support, and we'll give out a pool of new invite codes, divided among existing users, to cover that supportable growth. This means existing users will get new invite codes at least once a month to give out to their friends.
The length of time for the open beta phase will, again, depend on what we find as we go. For the most part, though, this phase will be indistinguishable from our eventual goal of fully-launched mature site: things may be shaky at times, but all of the basic functionality (and some of our new enhancements!) will be available from moment one.
- Date goal: Unknown
The move from "open beta" to "site launch" will be the hallmark of a fully-mature site ready to support a thriving community. We'll move from dedicated-hosting hardware to colocated hardware that we own and control, and we'll shift our development efforts away from mostly tweaking the behavior of existing features to a mixture of tweaking existing features and developing entirely new ones.
Right now, in order to foster a strong sense of community (and minimize some of the more-common abusive tactics), we plan to retain the invite code system for the entire life of the site. However, once we reach the level of mature site, we'll be able to release far more invite codes and support a much-greater site expansion. Our servers will be stable, we'll aim for high availability, and we'll work to make the enhancements that our users request.
We'll probably also throw a really big launch party -- both virtually and in person. :)