Microsoft Pulls Off the Wings of Butterfly

Microsoft has ended its Windows Live Butterfly program, which provided a forum for IT pros to play with the betas of the newest Microsoft products before their public release. For those users, Microsoft is offering a number of new options, including MVP program membership and access to future beta testing.

Microsoft is officially ending its Windows Live Butterfly program, which let a select group of testers poke and prod at the newest Microsoft products in beta before public release. The company announced the shutdown of the program, previously known as MSN Butterfly, on July 1.

"Rather than continue the program as something only focused on beta testing, we're offering the group a variety of options to engage in the broader Windows Live community," said an accompanying Microsoft statement, "including the opportunity to join the MVP [most valuable professional] program and continued and future access to beta testing opportunities."

Windows Live Butterfly structured itself as more of a community, with beta testers not only able to submit feedback on upcoming Windows Live products, but also comment and vote on others' assessments. Termed "Butterflies" by Microsoft, the testers would evaluate a program as it moved back and forth between beta and release, offering new opinions each time.

Being a Butterfly came with perks, most notably the access to any Windows Live beta, as well as a private newsgroup - not to mention the occasional "thank you" message from Microsoft itself.

However, former Butterflies discussed what they saw as issues with the program.

"There were some systemic problems with having non-IT pros as beta testers," Kip Kniskern, a former Butterfly, wrote in a July 2 posting on, which follows Microsoft Live and Bing news. "While the feedback we provided (and some of it was loud and long) ultimately made the products we tested better, turns out we couldn't really write a bug report to save our lives."

In June 2006, according to Kniskern, Microsoft initiated a purge of sorts, in which the company "dumped testers who weren't filing bug reports (including, ahem, me), and pared down the program by (guessing) 75 percent or so."

It would take another three years, however, before Microsoft decided to kill the program altogether.