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Facebook makes us all QA testers, launches beta channel for its Android app

Facebook launches a beta program where people can try out early builds of its Android app.

Calling all beta-testers! At an engineer roundtable Thursday, Facebook announced it was opening up a beta channel for its primary Android app. Signing up for the beta program gives you access to early builds of the Android Facebook app, so you can check out upcoming features before they're officially released.

In a note posted to the Facebook Engineering account, the company praised Android's open nature but also recognized one of its biggest weaknesses: fragmentation. With Android running on such a wide variety of devices, and with Facebook being one of the most downloaded apps in the Google Play Store, the company hopes to use this beta program as a way to provide a better experience for all users.

"The openness of Android has allowed us to innovate and build awesome products like Home and features like Chat Heads. We are in the early days of Google's beta program, but we're excited to work on extending our testing coverage at scale and providing the best app experience to everyone using Facebook."

Facebook's current beta program relies heavily on companies employees and partners in the telecom industry, which doesn't give the social networking giant a large pool of feedback. "It's not totally representative of the world," Mike Shaver, director of engineering at Facebook, told our colleagues at IDG News Service. "We have a bunch of people in the [Silicon Valley] 650 area code who have nice phones."

"We really want to have millions of users in that program," Shaver added.

If you don't mind running unfinished software, you can sign up for the program by joining the Facebook for Android Beta Testers Google Group and following the directions posted there. Once you've opted-into being Facebook's guinea pig, you'll receive updates at a much more rapid pace than normal and have access to new features before anyone else.

Keep in mind that things might not work as well as they should, and Facebook encourages beta testers to report bugs as they find them. Whether or not this will lead to a better Facebook experience on Android remains to be seen, but for now the adventurous among us have can play with Facebook's buggy builds.

Martyn Williams of IDG News Service contributed to this report.


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