For questions about the process of site graduation, which is when a site moves from the beta stage (where a site's scope is defined and the user base is grown) to a full-blown member of the Stack Exchange network. For graduated sites themselves, use the tag [full-sites].
Use this tag for questions about the processes of site graduation, which the two-phase process by which a Stack Exchange site in beta moves to being a full member of the Stack Exchange network. For questions about graduated sites themselves, use the tag full-sites.
There are two phases (historically three) involved in site graduation:
Phase 1: Removal of "beta" label and moderator elections
When a site meets the criteria for graduation, the "beta" label will be removed and the site will be placed in a queue to receive a design. Additionally, a moderator election will be scheduled to determine a new, permanent set of moderators; the pro-tem moderators who served during the beta will lose their privileges unless they nominate as a candidate and get elected. Also, the site can become a candidate for a selectable migration path from other sites.
At this stage, the site is referred to as a "non-designed" site as it still has the same (usually generic) design it had back during the beta phase. The site also retains its "beta" reputation levels.
Phase 2a: Site design
Some time after Phase 1 has begun, the SE team will begin working out the details of the site's prospective design (i.e. the header image, the theme colors, the site logo, and the badge icons). Once the design is ready, it will be deployed to the site, and it will have a full design.
Phase 2b: Increased privilege levels
Effective February 2023, this phase no longer occurs except in exceptional circumstances.
The site's privilege levels would be increased to the "full" levels used on large sites on the network.
What are the criteria for graduation?
The criteria have changed over time, but currently they are:
- Have been in public beta for at least six months (180 days)
- Have at least 1,000 open questions
- At least 70% of open questions on the site have an upvoted or accepted answer (i.e. are not considered "unanswered")
- Not have any community opposition to having the "beta" label removed (a site that meets the above criteria may still be working to define its scope)
What were the criteria in the past?
Original one-phase process (2010-2015)
Originally, the above phases all occurred at the same time, with one event called "graduation".
- When the Area 51 process was established in 2010, sites would strictly be in beta for 90 days, after which they would either fully graduate or be shut down.
- Since 2011, SE began allowing sites to have longer public betas. At that time, SE staff would evaluate graduation on a subjective basis, based on whether or not the site has reached "critical mass" (i.e., met the criteria for Phase 2b above), as well as the capacity of the design team.
Move to a two-phase process (2015-2021)
In 2015, the original process was replaced with a new two-phase process, which removed the goal for a site to reach "critical mass" and instituted a lower bar to have the "beta" label removed (Phase 1). Phases 2a and 2b above were still combined (Phase 2).
When the changes originally took place, beta sites that consistently got at least 10 questions per day would be considered for graduation and move toward Phase 1.
Over time, however, it became clear that the bar was too high for many smaller communities to maintain despite consistently producing high-quality content. It was also higher than what many sites which had left beta were producing. As such, Stack Exchange exempted many sites from the criteria in two large events:
- In August 2019, the 29 sites that had been sustaining public beta for seven years moved toward Phase 1.
- In December 2021, sites that were in public beta for at least six months, had a minimum number of open questions, and had below a certain proportion of unanswered questions moved toward Phase 1, provided there was no community opposition.
Current process (2022-present)
Shortly after the December 2021 exemption above and the holiday season then, the Stack Exchange team decided that the criteria for qualifying for the exemption should be the new, permanent criteria for graduating and moving to phase 1.
A few months later, in May 2022, the team announced that Phase 2 would be split into two separate phases. Afterwards, in February 2023, the team announced that increased privilege thresholds are no longer considered a milestone of site graduation. Outbound migration paths can also now be implemented during Phase 1.