Here's the scenario:
What are the benefits/pitfalls of having a private beta, vs. making a publicly available download-able beta via the website.
Some pros I can think of for a public beta are:
Thanks in advance!
We've run a quite successful private beta about 6 months ago for 2-3 months.
Don't do public beta unless your product is pretty stable and works as expected in many stages otherwise lots of people will ignore you for the next year based on the crap beta experience. That's hard to shake off.
Depending on your product when you go public you'll notice you've got 1000 more bugs than you know.
If you decide to do private beta, read and follow Joel's advice. I wish I had.
Finally, you can do a quick private beta and depending on the product stability etc. you can open the beta later on.