Facebook Fires Up Android Beta-Testing Program

By David Cohen 

One of the oft-expressed complaints about Facebook involves its traditional process of staggering the rollouts of new products, such as Graph Search and its redesigned News Feed. However, users who access the social network via Android devices can now access the latest versions of the flagship Facebook application prior to their release to the general public thanks to Thursday’s launch of the Facebook for Android beta-testing program.

Interested users should take the following steps:

  1. Join the Facebook for Android Beta Testers Google group.
  2. Allow beta downloads by clicking “become a tester” in the Google Play store (you need to join the Google group before becoming a tester).
  3. Download Facebook from the Google Play store to update your app.
  4. Join the Facebook for Android Beta Testers group on Facebook to tell us what you think.

Facebook for Android Product Manager Ragavan Srinivasan explained the thinking behind the beta-testing program in a note on the Facebook Engineering page:

Performance and reliability are top priorities across Android, but when we marry the platform’s diversity of devices and operating-system 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.

Over the past six months, we began a partner beta program, where we have been providing pre-release versions of Facebook for Android to leading mobile industry partners including Qualcomm, HTC, Ericsson, Sony, Huawei, and MediaTek, helping us better optimize for current and upcoming devices and networks. With expertise spanning topics such as graphics rendering, multimedia codecs, and network infrastructure, these partners have been incredibly helpful as we work to improve the quality of the app.

True to our Facebook DNA, we also experimented with direct downloads, which delivered new versions of the app directly to select Android users. Rapidly collecting feedback and shipping fixes helped us do more comprehensive testing and iterate even more quickly.

And when Google launched its new beta-testing and staged rollout program for apps at I/O, we were excited to participate in it and started to work on building an open community of Facebook beta-testers who would work toward making the app better for everyone.

Srinivasan also explained Facebook’s goals for the program, and what interested users will be expected to do:

This will give us the opportunity to eliminate our blind spots and identify a snapshot of the diversity of use cases to test our apps so that when we push to our whole user base, everyone has a better experience. Whether someone is using Gingerbread or Jelly Bean, more complete testing coverage gives us the opportunity to make sure more people can access a stable, high-performance Facebook.

Anyone can join the beta program. When you join, you will get a small batch of fixes and new features every month. We ask that you use your app as you normally would, but submit a report when you encounter a bug or other issue. Because the beta build will have features that are still in progress, the app may be less stable than you’re accustomed to. Feedback on stability, as well as any other performance issues you experience, is crucial and deeply appreciated.

Android users: Will you sign up for the beta-testing program?