There is rapid growth in the development and launching of new public e-services to citizens. In doing this, government agencies base their work on national and international programs for e-government development. Many such programs include a stage model for public e-services. Many such models comprise stages of 1) information, 2) interaction, 3) transaction and 4) interaction. The wide spread use of such stage models (e-ladders) give rise to several questions. Are the categories of a stage model well chosen? Do e-services evolve through such a series of stages? Is there a real advancement between the different stages? Should one always strive for higher stages? Are higher stages inherently better than lower stages? Is a stage model a proper yardstick for evaluation and benchmarking? The paper pursues a critical examination of such stage models (called e-ladder). A conceptual analysis of stage models is performed based on a socio-pragmatic foundation. Empirical examples are given that show weaknesses in the assumptions and conceptualisations of stage models. An alternative model - the e-diamond - is presented consisting of three polarities (informative vs performative; standardized vs individualized; separate vs coordinated).