Jeff Bezos, president of, took a simple precaution when the giant online bookseller, in Seattle, was still an unknown start-up. Bezos tested his Web site before opening it up to the public at large. Before the company posted even a single sale, Bezos launched a beta test for employees and friends.

The site was live on the Web, but Bezos didn't publicize the address or list it with Web search engines. Instead, he encouraged his employees to give the address and a fake credit-card number to their friends. He wanted them to place mock orders. The six-week test period quickly mushroomed into three months as the 300 beta shoppers reported bug after bug.

"It was a huge success," Bezos reports. "We found all the major and most of the minor bugs." He now recommends trial runs for even the smallest Web sites. "Most people just put up their sites and learn about the bugs over time. But," he cautions, "there is a problem with that. The first people who try it may just give up and never come back." has grown to be one of the Web's most publicized success stories.