Well, Joost still hasn’t given me any more invites. (I’ll let you all know when I get some more). So, why invites? Do the makers of Joost simply want to be elitist? Many Web applications these days offer a limited beta release where anyone can sign up for their app only to follow by locking down their sign-up pages in favor of getting current users to invite their associates to use the program. Why do this? It seems like extra work to manage invitation and exclusive sign-up lists.
It turns out that the exclusive beta process is actually quite selfish, companies tend to do it because they haven’t fully developed the infrastructure they require to properly scale their application. The infrastructure could include items such as servers, customer support teams, etc. — exclusive beta allows them to determine how much bandwidth 1 addition to the user base takes off the servers. As the app development team works the kinks out of their technology they release more invitations to more beta users and are able to throttle the growth of that base as much or as little as they need to as they flex their muscles and build the systems required to deliver their app without any major customer service failures.
In short, exclusive beta is a great way to eliminate an unknown as you go to develop your web app. With the ability to throttle your exponential growth you are able to experiment with your user base without the fear of becoming overwhelmed by a huge influx of popularity. Simultaneously you create buzz for your application by keeping it exclusive- encouraging bloggers such as myself to at least comment on having invites available for people. The one gamble lays in not refining the value proposition of your app to the degree that would encourage people to invite their friends or associates to test it out. Developing an elaborate system to throttle growth is next to useless if no one is inspired to help you grow your user base.