Facebook made its Android app crash on purpose to prepare for war with Google

Patrick O'Rourke

January 4, 2016 2:00pm

In order to see just how far it could push Android users before they would abandon its social media platform, Facebook broke its own Android app on purpose, in some cases causing it to send users errors for a number of hours. It sounds insane, but according to new reports from The Information, this unorthodox experiment actually happened.

It’s unclear what region the tests took place in or how many users were affected, but the results are resoundingly clear: users were actually willing to sit through multiple errors. Regardless of how long Facebook’s Android app remained unstable, people still eventually returned to the platform.

These tests were reportedly part of an effort by Facebook to prepare for a conflict with Google that could end with the company’s apps taken off the Google Play Store. Even though Facebook is the largest app developer on Android, the company poses a monumental threat to Google’s business and in various ways, the two companies are direct competitors.

Because Facebook’s presence is so significant, the social media platform could create its own independent app store designed to compete directly with the Play Store. The biggest issues for Facebook, if the company were to adopt this approach, would be getting users to download a new version of its app. If the Android version of Facebook crashes frequently, this gives users an incentive to download a new app from Facebook’s hypothetical app store.

While this move is unlikely to happen at any point in the near future, it seems Facebook is weighing its options and is considering an app store war with Google as an eventual possibility.

This is the type of experimental strategy only an enormous company like Facebook could pull of. Imagine if a restaurant intentionally served horrible steak just to see if customers would still come back? It would just never happen.

In the past Facebook has experimented with created apps that are deeply imbedded into Android’s core functionality. Apps like a dedicated Android Facebook phone and app launcher were both unsuccessful.

  • drewski

    My FB app couldn’t (wouldn’t?) connect this weekend but was fine after an uninstall/install cycle. Wonder if this was related.

    • silver_arrow

      I’ve had this happen multiple times to me and would work again after reinstalling the app.

  • birdman_36

    Mine has worked totally fine with no interruptions. An occasional unusual server error when deleting some conversations on Messenger though.

  • Griz

    I’d like to see the uptake in Amazon’s app store on Android to see how well it’s done (or not done). Asking users to go to a mobile site to download the APK is one thing, but having them enable unknown sources in order to install it is quite another.

    • Tim Hunt

      Especially when a fair number of users would likely forget to disable unknown sources afterwards.

  • mola2alex

    This makes no sense at all, it just makes them look like bad, incompetent developers. This smells like an excuse – our app intentionally sucks, yeah that’s is.

    If true, users should be furious, Facebook wasted even more of your time by introducing bugs on purpose, specifically to make your experience bad. Now any bug, intentional or not I will believe Facebook is just screwing with me to somehow get at Google, way to go. I hate Facebook, it adds no real value to the world, just a time suck of people posting a shell of themselves, a facade of pure BS about how their life is good when it really sucks. People that have a good life, don’t post it on Facebook.

    • HiKsFiles

      Here’s an advice for you : close your facebook account… for your own good!

    • mola2alex

      I did! I have much more free time.

    • MelchiahX

      Amen to that my friend.

  • Habs Killa

    gigantic corps fighting over our money…

    In protest, I’m not buying any apps for a month. That’ll teach them.


    • JayDDeeeee

      lol it reminds me of the lets not buy gas on Mondays thing a couple years ago… yes and then you will buy it on tuesday instead. Oh no you hurt them so much :S

  • Craig Cook

    I wish my Facebook app would stop working. The website too lol.

  • J.S.Bach

    I dumped Facebook a couple of years ago and never looked back. It’s even more of a sewer than these comment sections… which is hard to believe really.

  • CommonSense

    The Facebook Android app permissions are too open (Facebook can send texts to anyone as you.) Just say no! If you need to use Facebook on your mobile device, use the mobile web version, it works well, and you don’t have to give up as many freedoms.

  • Jason

    Theres allot of variables in this that they dont talk about, like what time were these crashes? how many times did people refresh before they left the app? was this targeted towards one style of phone, if so why not iphones or windows? Basically what I see from this is how many people stay with the social media monopoly. But lets also remember that Facebook does weird experiments all the time like how long does it take for someone to switch their profile pic to the event of the month and then switch it back.

    • Unorthodox

      Or how much faster bad news spread than the good one.

  • RjPiston

    This is why i only ever use the website to browse Facebook on my phone. I haven’t come across a feature I needed that the app had and the website didn’t.

  • Scott

    why not just jump to the website if the app becomes that badly broken? If Facebook has a good mobile webpage then the need for an app isn’t there any longer.

    • I actually did that somewhat recently. I don’t think solid mobile pages can ever change the ease of use when it comes to apps though.

  • Facebook does a lot of experiments on its users. I get why they do it but why not use a study group like other companies would?

    Randomly doing it seems a bit mean

    • Andrew_notPorC

      I think FB has amply demonstrated over the years their rather unethical treatment of users and their data. Remember when they did a study on what triggered unhappiness/depression in users without informed consent?

    • This is the kind of stuff they shouldn’t do. It’s just as bad as the dating sites that test their users when matching them with others.

  • selonmoi

    People want/need the core Facebook experience, and that’s it. They’ll put themselves through some misery to get it, because it’s a big part of their lives — it’s an important way that they keep in touch with friends and family. But no one is looking for new, unrelated services from Facebook the company. Facebook Home was a failure, the Facebook Phone was a failure. A Facebook app store would be a failure, too.

    People would probably jump through some hoops to get/update Facebook. But they wouldn’t go to Facebook’s app store for other apps. That’s just silly.

  • SycloneRob

    I barely used Facebook. This article just reminded me to Uninstaller the app. If I need to go into my Facebook I will just go to the Web page direct.

  • Good thing I dropped FB ages ago. FU, FB.

  • Elton Bello

    True or bs?

  • TheShinraCorp .

    I always wondered what would happen if Facebook ceases to exist tomorrow. I would laugh about it but for others? They’ll probably think it’s the end of the world or something.

    I got rid of Facebook years ago it was a waste of time for me and it was a spammer in my inbox, I’m sure it’s good for most people but for me… It wasn’t great.