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.