1M people try to help Facebook spruce up Android

Facebook pumps up its contributions to the open-source software community and the growing number of users who have joined its Android testers program.

Donna Tam Staff Writer / News
Donna Tam covers Amazon and other fun stuff for CNET News. She is a San Francisco native who enjoys feasting, merrymaking, checking her Gmail and reading her Kindle.
Donna Tam
2 min read
Christian Legnitto, Facebook's manager of mobile release engineering, talks open source. Donna Tam/CNET

MENLO PARK, Calif. -- More than 1 million people help Facebook test its Android app, the social network said Wednesday.

Christian Legnitto, Facebook's manager of mobile release engineering, said the company has more than 1 million users who have signed up for the company's beta testers program and 50,000 users for its alpha program. The two programs let users try out early versions of Facebook's app before it's released to the public. That means the apps are buggy and unpolished, but users can give instant feedback within the app. This lets the company improve its app quickly.

While both versions are early, the alpha program, which started in October and is for the Android app, has the latest code "hot off the presses every night," according to Legnitto.

The testing program is just one of the ways Facebook has transformed itself into a mobile-first company. In addition to changing its internal process for delivering apps, the company has remained dedicated to its open-source software roots, Legnitto said.

To solve issues with building apps quickly, Facebook, like other companies, has had to create new code. It shares its code for free with the public. Already, companies like Pinterest and Path use tools built by Facebook, Legnitto said. It is currently pushing 100 open-source projects, which has thousands of contributions from the open-source community -- that includes companies like Digg, Airbnb, and Dropbox.

The projects include ways to test apps faster, generate real-time crash reports, and features such as the code used to create Facebook's Chat Heads messaging. Legnitto said Facebook had to create the messaging feature's code from scratch, and he hopes to see other companies use the code to add it to their apps.

"We're really excited to solve these hard problems and give it to the community, as well as benefit from when the community takes these things and uses them to do really interesting things," he said.

Correction, 1:05 p.m. PT: This story and headline incorrectly stated the total number of users signed up for the testers program. More than 1 million users have signed up for the beta testers program and 50,000 users for its alpha program.