Facebook engineers explained on Thursday that the company will begin asking regular users of the company’s Android app to participate in a beta testing program to identify bugs before they hit the generally available version. The company figures this will improve the overall experience of Facebook on Android, which is used by millions of users worldwide but remains a challenging platform to develop for.
Users will be able to beta test the Android app through a new system that Google announced at I/O in May, when the company started allowing Android developers to push out updates to small percentages of their users before sending the update to all users through the Google Play store. The beta testing will be open to all interested Android users on Facebook beginning this week.
The Facebook engineers, who explained the decision at a conversation with reporters on Thursday at the Menlo Park headquarters, said they’re hoping it will help Facebook with the company’s app performance on Android. They pointed to the large number of Android devices that are out there, as well as the difficulty in adequately testing the app on poor connection speeds, older phone models, or different operating systems at the company’s headquarters.
“These are the kinds of things that are hard to replicate in our environment,” said Ragavan Srinivasan, a product manager for Facebook.
A company provided a blog post that also explains the roll-out:
“Performance and reliability are top priorities across Android, but when we marry the platform’s diversity of devices and OS versions with Facebook scale, the ability to test quality across experiences can become a challenge. Beginning today, we are announcing a beta program for Facebook for Android. This new tool will help us get performance data and feedback from more people ahead of release across a wider range of devices and versions of Android. The ultimate goal of the program is to release updates to Facebook for Android that are more reliable and better performing.”
The company received a good deal of negative feedback on the recent roll-out of Home, which some attributed to the iPhone culture at Facebook that didn’t adequately “dogfood” the Android feature. Mike Shaver, director of engineering at Facebook, said beta testing would be primarily used for testing out features the company isn’t read to release to a wide audience, which could include new features that are still in production.
Users can begin signing up to beta test this week, and the company will provide instructions for joining the groups necessary to do so.