Facebook recruiting Android users to test its app

The social network utilizes Google Play's new beta testing program to turn users into Android app testers who can report bugs and crashes immediately to Facebook.

James Martin/CNET

MENLO PARK, Calif. -- Facebook is lifting up its hood for Android users who are willing to help it test, and ultimately approve, its Android apps.

The social network launched a beta testing program at a press event on Thursday, using Google Play's new beta partnership program, a process where users sign up -- through Google+, of course -- to test for bugs and crashes.

"We're inviting this group of people to join the dog-fooding family," Mike Shaver, director of engineering for mobile, said, using the term that describes when a company requires its employees to use a specific product in order to make it better. Android has been an important area for Facebook because it powers a majority of the world's smartphones. Facebook wants to expand its reach globally, and Android, as well as developing apps for a variety of users, is key to that plan.

Asking users to join in the testing of new features, a task usually reserved just for Facebook staff, lets Facebook innovate quickly on mobile.

"This is the first time we're really looking at providing a public view into these pieces that we're really not sure about yet, not just the parts that are refined," Shaver said.

Product Manager Ragavan Srinivasan said the program will start with the main Facebook app. But the company will expand it to its other Android apps, including Home, Facebook's software suite that was custom made for Android. He said Facebook wants to know things like if the apps are crashing or have a slow loading time. Users will be able to make a report right from the app, which will automatically take screenshots of the problem and send it to Facebook.

Facebook users will have to sign up for Google+ to participate. After joining the Android Beta Testers group, users will need to opt in to be a tester and then they can either immediately download the beta app from Google Play or wait for the app's next update. Naturally, Facebook doesn't want you to use any of the other Google+ functions to provide feedback, like connecting with other beta testers and Facebook staff through the rival social network. Those sorts of things, of course, are reserved for a newly created Facebook group instead.

 

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