October 11, 2013Mobile · Android · Testing

Update on the Facebook for Android beta testing program

Christian Legnitto

In June we introduced the Facebook for Android beta testing program, giving users who opt in access to the latest versions of Facebook for Android before the general release. With over 1 million daily active users from over 150 countries, the Facebook for Android beta testing program has been successful in giving us the feedback necessary to make Facebook for Android more stable for users.

Improving quality

The beta program gives us the opportunity to identify a snapshot of the diversity of use cases and eliminate our blind spots when we’re testing our apps so that when we ship an update to all of our users, 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.

Our initial goals with the beta program were to expand our pool of testers and gain feedback across a more diverse set of devices. Our beta testers currently use phones from over 50 manufacturers, run multiple versions of Android, and use our app in varying network conditions.

The crash and performance reports we get from testers help us track down issues before we ship the general release. Manual bug reports from testers using the "Report a Problem" menu item have also alerted us to problems we might have otherwise missed because of Android's diversity and the impossibility of testing it all ourselves.

We're listening

In addition to quality reports, we get over 1,000 direct pieces of feedback from beta testers per day, including feature requests, bug reports, and posts in our feedback group. Over 260,000 testers have joined the optional Facebook group to stay up to date and post feedback. Our beta testers let their voices be heard--posts in the feedback group often have over 500 comments and over 1,000 likes.

We're excited that testers are so engaged and care about Facebook enough to spend their time crafting feedback and giving their opinions. We're using this feedback to inform our future direction, tweak features before they ship to everyone, and identify problem areas where we need to add more focus--so keep it coming!

Introducing the Facebook for Android alpha testing program

In the spirit of getting feedback even earlier in the development process, starting today, we're introducing the Facebook for Android alpha testing program. We started out with beta as we knew it would be a good balance between testing and usability, but we'd love to get feedback as early as testers want to give it.The Facebook for Android alpha testing program will be very similar to the beta program, but the app will be at an even earlier stage in its development.

Alpha is not for the faint of heart--features will come and go, crashes will be introduced and fixed, and designs may go through many iterations. Because we are continually testing and experimenting on alpha, the Facebook for Android app that alpha users test will look and behave differently than what ultimately gets shipped in a general release. That being said, feedback on stability and features, as well as any other performance issues you experience, is crucial and deeply appreciated.

If you want to join the alpha program, follow these steps:

1) Join the Facebook for Android Alpha Testers Google group

2) Allow alpha downloads by clicking “Become a Tester” in the Play Store (you need to join the Google Group before becoming a tester)

3) Download Facebook from the Play Store to update your app

4) Turn on automatic updates--we'll be updating alpha multiple times per week

5) Report problems and give us feedback by using the "Report a Problem" menu item

Be aware that the alpha version of the app installs over both the beta and the general release. Because of the way Google Play works, if you sign up for both pre-release programs you will receive the alpha version. If you later decide alpha is not for you and want to be back on the general release, you can stop testing by clicking "Leave the test" in the Play Store.

The best app experience

The new Facebook for Android alpha testing program will give us high quality feedback very early in the development process. The existing Facebook for Android beta testing program confirms those fixes at scale. These two programs give us the early user feedback we need to confidently provide the best app experience to everyone using Facebook.

Christian Legnitto leads mobile release engineering at Facebook.

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