According to Area51, Stack Overflow (in Portuguese) is still in private beta. But yet I just signed up on it https://pt.stackoverflow.com/users/582/christmas-unicorn (already deleted the profile now) despite I didn't commit to the proposal or recieve any mail.

Why did this happen?

  • 2
    I guess because that site is special. It's not your run-off-the-mill Area51 site
    – Pekka
    Commented Dec 17, 2013 at 22:39
  • @Pëkka Hmmmm...
    – Walker
    Commented Dec 17, 2013 at 22:40
  • This link "Visit the site now!" on Area 51 goes to where it shouldn't. It goes to the login page.
    – hichris123
    Commented Dec 17, 2013 at 22:42
  • Happens on Aviation too.
    – hichris123
    Commented Dec 17, 2013 at 22:43
  • @hichris123 You got it
    – Walker
    Commented Dec 17, 2013 at 22:43
  • @hichris123 Thats true. I just signed up on aviation too.
    – Walker
    Commented Dec 17, 2013 at 22:45
  • 9
    This is intentional, but I forget exactly why we made the change. I'll see if I can summon someone to answer this who remembers.
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Commented Dec 17, 2013 at 22:45
  • Did you actually log in, or did you just sign up?
    – Travis J
    Commented Dec 17, 2013 at 22:54
  • @TravisJ I clicked the Visit the site now on area51, I got to login page and well, logged in..
    – Walker
    Commented Dec 17, 2013 at 22:55
  • 1
    @oded does your tag change not require a comment or note as to why its by design?
    – Toby Allen
    Commented Feb 11, 2014 at 13:01
  • 1
    I've asked someone more articulate and knowledgeable about this change to respond. I do know we allow this now and it is by design so.
    – Oded
    Commented Feb 11, 2014 at 13:03
  • And it's a dupe (or at least there's a post explaining this) ... but I can't seem to find it.
    – Bart
    Commented Feb 11, 2014 at 13:03
  • Yep, that's the one @ProgramFOX.
    – Bart
    Commented Feb 11, 2014 at 13:05
  • Crap, I was hoping we could keep SoftwareRecs secret from MSO for a while longer...
    – yannis
    Commented Feb 11, 2014 at 13:08
  • @Yannis I see you don't visit the tavern.... it was there from the instant it was out in private beta. ;) Commented Feb 11, 2014 at 13:09

2 Answers 2


It occurred to us that it didn't really make sense that you could participate in a private beta if you committed on Area 51 anytime up to the launch of the private beta, but not once it started.

We still want private betas to be limited to users who are actively interested in building a site (vs. lurkers or drive-bys,) so we're not letting anyone with the site url or who googles straight in.

But if you are willing to put in roughly the same effort in navigating to the Area 51 page that would have gotten you access as of the day before the private beta launched, it seemed silly to lock you out for a week. So, we stopped.

  • Does this mean the commitment stage would get less 'action'?
    – user234239
    Commented Dec 18, 2013 at 0:11
  • @scrooge, That's a valid concern, but we don't think it'll matter that much - you still need to commit to get notified of when it goes to private beta, and commitments are still needed to trigger launch, so eliminating the exclusivity shouldn't have too big of an impact there.
    – Jaydles
    Commented Dec 26, 2013 at 19:02
  • 3
    This is a pretty horrible user experience. I signed up for a private beta (via Area 51) yesterday and answered a question. Then today, using a different browser, I got a notification from the Stack Exchange topbar about a comment. When I clicked on the link and visited the beta site, I got the message that I couldn't log in to the beta because it was private. I eventually figured out that I could log in if I went via the Area 51 site, but only through persistence and dumb luck. I understand limiting sign ups in that way, but limiting log ins feels like a UI bug to me.
    – Rich
    Commented Feb 6, 2015 at 14:58

Many private betas receive plenty of participation, but that isn't always the case. Some proposals simply go too long in the Commitment phase, so folks forget and find other things to do.

Private betas are anything but private, they could technically be called 'mostly closed betas' instead. It's easy for anyone to see what's going on in a private beta by simply using our API. We opened them up a bit more by letting people join provided that they found the proposal on Area 51 - even if they didn't commit. This ensures that:

  • Anyone arriving to the site is probably interested in building it, and knows it's a work in progress.
  • Noise from the outside world is still mostly kept in check, allowing new communities to get down to business and have the discussions that need to take place during this early phase
  • Potentially great contributors that might not have committed simply because they didn't notice the proposal in time aren't alienated
  • The site stands a better shot at entering public beta quickly

As you noticed, you had to log in, anonymous traffic can't find their way into a private beta. Before we did this, users just had to find someone they knew that had committed to send them an invite link via email, it just made sense to let anyone logged in and interested enough in the topic to get in.

This has worked pretty well so far, and while I haven't run the numbers yet, Software Recommendations had an amazing turn out, some of which might be attributable to this change.

  • 2
    So it's more like a 'protected' beta :-) Commented Feb 11, 2014 at 13:19
  • Yes, precisely. The main reason to restrict it is so that you don't have too many people trying to decide on how the new community is going to do things. Before we can let the world in, we need to know the scope and tagging conventions at a minimum. Other topics require special consideration when it comes to the kind of content they find suitable. All this needs to be done before the guests get to the party.
    – user50049
    Commented Feb 11, 2014 at 13:22

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