Airlock, Facebook’s New A/B Testing Framework, Will Help Improve User Experience On Its Mobile Apps

Facebook has developed a new mobile A/B testing framework, it announced today. In a post on the company’s engineering blog, engineers Ari Grant and Kang Zhang explained that when Facebook switched to native development stacks two years ago, it gave them finer control over many aspects of mobile development, but also meant losing the ability to A/B test.

With Airlock, Facebook can make new updates to their iOS and Android apps that “support 10 to 15 different variations of a single experiment and put it in the hands of millions of people,” which means that the company’s developers now have the ability to figure out which features work the best (or don’t) and improve mobile user experience much more quickly.

Even though 73% of its 1.19 billion users (as of September 2013) access the social network primarily through their mobile devices, Facebook has struggled to make sure that its mobile strategy keeps up with rivals like Twitter. Airlock will make it easier for Facebook’s developers to figure out what mobile users want, which is especially important because Twitter recently issued a major redesign of its own iOS and Android apps. Both social networks also have to compete with the increasing popularity of messaging apps like WhatsApp, Line and WeChat.

Airlock is the latest sign that Facebook is focused on fine tuning its mobile strategy. Back in April, it acquired Parse, which marked its entry into a new business category, or paid tools and services such as back-end data storage, for mobile app developers. And earlier this week, Indian startup Little Eye Labs, which makes a software tool for analyzing the performance of Android apps, announced its acquisition by Facebook. The Bangalore-based company’s team will move to Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, where they will build analysis tools to help develop apps.