Posters like these have been popping up all over Facebook’s main campus in Palo Alto, California. It seems that despite their best efforts, the higher-ups at Facebook just can’t get enough internal beta-testers for the social network’s Android application.
Facebook’s Android application is one of the most widely used apps on any platform. And as most of you know, it sucks pretty intensely. Despite several recent updates the application is still painfully slow, lacking in functionality and very unreliable. The internal campaign at Facebook is being referred to as “Droidfooding.” The term has its origins in an old business term: “dogfooding” as in, eating your own dog food – aka testing your own products.
Facebook is also encouraging the use of its “Rage Shake” feature that it has been built into the beta versions of its Facebook and Messenger applications for both Android and iOS. When an employee discovers a bug, they simply shake their phone, and the current state is saved and sent to Facebook’s development team. Hopefully these new efforts will result in a better Android application in the near future.
While this effort on the part of Facebook is certainly admirable. It is symptomatic of a much larger issue over at big blue. I won’t take the time to re-hash the disaster that was Facebook’s IPO launch. It’s the worst in history, its investors lost lots of money, enough said. Yes, Facebook has been doing somewhat better over the past few weeks, largely due to its recent efforts to monetize its mobile presence for the first time. Go ahead and re-read that last sentence. It is almost 2013 and Facebook is just now effectively monetizing its mobile presence. Despite the face that as of June of this year 18.7% of its audience doesn’t even use its desktop interface anymore. Between March and June of this year Facebook’s mobile traffic increased 23%! What all of these facts reveal is that Facebook isn’t like most other successful tech companies. Tech companies – even large ones like Google or IBM – have been distinguished from the rest of corporate America by their ability to change direction as web and technology users have changed. Not that tech companies have always been successful in this, but at least they try (Microsoft, I’m looking at you).
Facebook has only recently started to take its mobile presence seriously. And because of its massive user base, it might get away with this giant over-site, but not before losing millions for its stakeholders. If an employee at any tech company doesn’t see the advantages of the Galaxy S III, Nexus 4, or even the Galaxy Nexus over the cartoonish, worn out, locked down iOS, then they are probably missing a lot of other important developments too. iOS is the past, Android is the future and if Facebook wants to be a part of that future it needs to improve its Android application yesterday. But that isn’t news to the people over at Facebook. What does seem to be new to them is the idea that their industry is constantly in flux, and if they can’t keep up even the mighty Facebook might become just a relic.