Instagram launches an alpha testing program on iOS and Android

Are you an early adopter? Okay, but are you a really early adopter who likes to test new, experimental things even if it means you’ll experience crashes and bugs? Then you may be interested to know that Instagram has launched Alpha testing programs on iOS and Android aimed at those who want to test pre-release versions of its popular photo-sharing app.

Instagram has been running an Android Beta program for a couple of years now. Here, things like account switching and multi-photo album posts – now standard Instagram features – made their debut.

The company’s newly launched Alpha program will offer a different version of the app to testers than is available to Beta testers, however, so users may get to test features that never even make it to the next step up, much less the wider public.

The site Android Police first caught wind of the Android Alpha program’s launch, after spotting a post from an Instagram employee (which has since been removed) on Reddit. The post was soliciting participants for the program by offering a link to join. Commenters on Reddit then turned the thread into a series of feature requests, begging for things like an option for a reverse-chronological feed, a dark theme, and “regramming” support – meaning, reposting someone else’s photo with attribution.

Of course, who knows what Instagram may actually end up testing as this Alpha program gets going. (Email me if you find something good!)

While news of the Alpha program was just uncovered, it’s not exactly brand-new. The program actually launched two weeks ago, we understand. But Instagram didn’t make a formal announcement about its availability, so its existence is new information to many.

An Instagram spokesperson confirmed the Alpha program’s launch to TechCrunch, in a statement.

“We recently introduced Alpha programs for our iOS and Android versions of Instagram in addition to the Beta program we’ve had on Android for awhile,” they said. These programs are “a great way to collect feedback from the community,” they added.

The testing programs aren’t really meant to be a secret, but they’re also not broadly advertised. Those who like to join alpha and beta groups generally tend to know where to look for them – for example, by signing up for test builds of apps on the Google Play Store.

In fact, Google even made this easier for developers and consumers alike with last year’s launch of the “Early Access” feature, which centralizes apps open for testing in a dedicated tab in the mobile version of the Play Store.

Larger companies like Instagram don’t always use this option, though.

In Instagram’s case, for example, the process of joining the Alpha program involves becoming a member of this¬†Google Group, then joining the Instagram testing program on the Play Store, according to Android Police’s report.

Unfortunately, the iOS program is not taking any additional requests to join at this time.

Instagram isn’t the only Facebook app with a testing program. Facebook¬†launched its own pre-release program back in 2013. Other major tech companies, including Twitter and Google, run programs of their own, as well.