I was drown to the phrase, “in beta” in the following passage of New York Times’ (June 16) publicity of their own new scheme, Trending:
“The Times unveils a new tool, Trending, that shows you what Times stories are most popular with readers at a given instant. Trending also lets you know what stories are most popular on Facebook, Twitter and Google, and shows you which stories were most popular last week. Don’t want to be the last to know? Check out Trending. Brand new. Now in beta (testing mode). The Times has a sizable readership, but you haven’t been able to feel that presence when you are on the site. Now you can. (We still have a ways to go — we’re in beta, after all — but this is a start). http://www.nytimes.com/times-insider/2015/06/16/trending/?
online slang dictionary defines “in beta” as “a pre-release product that is released for testing.” It doesn't specify “in beta” as an internet or computor terminology.
Google Ngram shows the emergence of the usage of both “in beta” and “in alpha” in mid 1900s.
Why did “in beta” come to be used in the sense of “testing mode,” though it sounds like as if a disclaimer?
Can we use “in beta” in the sense of "in test, in development, in preparation" of a product/ service or scheme / plan other than Internet associated context?
Can “in alpha” be used as an antonym, or contrast word to “in beta,” or it’s a totally different animal?