Back in May of this year, Google announced an update to the Play Store that would allow developers to release beta and alpha versions of their app. The app distribution would be handled by the Play Store and users could specifically sign up if they were interested. Developers would have the ability to decide how many users could sign up if they wanted, and were encouraged to use tools like Google Groups or Google+ to engage with alpha and beta users.
Facebook took advantage of this in June by releasing a beta version of their Facebook for Android app. They also announced in a blog post from October that they have over 1 million users signed up for the beta, all of whom are helping to improve the app for everyone.
Our beta testers currently use phones from over 50 manufacturers, run multiple versions of Android, and use our app in varying network conditions.
CNet is also reporting that as of today, the alpha version of the Facebook app has 50,000 users and is still growing.
...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.
If you are interested in joining the alpha program, you can find instructions in Facebook's post. Given that over 1 million users have signed up for the beta.
Alpha and beta versions of apps are a great way for developers to test new features without harming their core user base. The users who sign up for the alpha or beta versions know what they are signing up for and have to seek it out to get it. So if a beta update breaks things within the app, the developers get immediate feedback from the beta test group without causing headaches for the millions of regular users. Those who are part of the alpha or beta programs can leave at any time to return to the standard, stable version.
Facebook is not alone in taking advantage of the Play Store's alpha and beta options. Other high-profile apps like Twitter, Snapchat, and Nova Launcher have all embraced beta builds for interested users, and Twitter also has an alpha version. All have attracted thousands or hundreds of thousands of users, all of whom want to be using the bleeding edge of their favorite apps.
Facebook also promises that they are actively listening to users' feedback. They say they get over 1000 feedback reports every day from beta testers, and they say "keep it coming!"
Do you use the Facebook alpha or beta apps? Are you liking the changes you see?