Morgan Gangwere

@indrora

How (not) to transition an app between companies.

Facebook’s app on Windows 10 has had a storied history. Originally, the version that shipped on every Windows 10 mobile device was built by a team inside Microsoft. The app does exactly what you’d expect a Facebook client to do: It has a fairly good grasp of what makes the timeline work, has comments, mostly feels like it fits within the context of the platform. I had some nitpicks (It definitely has the “Facebook” look to it, not the defined “Microsoft” look. I can understand that, though.)

Recently (within the last few months, I’d assume,) Microsoft and Facebook came to a nexus and said “You know what? Facebook should own the Facebook app on Windows 10.” And so Microsoft started (quietly) pushing a new app built by Facebook.

They did this through the Photos app, mostly; It’s a part of the new Share sequence: Suggested apps based on what you have installed are shown for particular types of images. In this case, my phone suggested that I install the Facebook app.

I wondered why it was suggesting an app I thought I already had installed. Curious, I booped the option and it installed in the background. When I went to my start screen and booped the Facebook icon I have pinned there, I was greeted with a bit of an unpleasant surprise: the old app simply refused to start, full stop. End of story, we’re done, packed up, toss me out in the trash.

In the ever knowledgeable words of Anon, “lol wut?”

Note: this is the version I’ve had pinned to my start screen since I got the phone. I’ve been consistently and pleasantly surprised at how much I like the Facebook app that ships with Windows 10, but was disappointed heavily when I was often unable to even interact with the Messenger app on mobile — a long standing bug had caused touch input to simply not register — much less enjoy the buggy experience.

“Well, okay, I guess,” I said to myself. I grappled around and uninstalled the “outdated” version. Pulling up the new version required me to log in again, re-do my 2FA and authorize the device again, and what did I get?

I’ll give you a second to think.

Ready?

It crashed. Slam, right down to the start page. This in the Windows UAP development world, is called “Tombstoning”. You’ve died so hard that the platform didn’t even bother to try to revive you. There’s a few reasons this could happen: Running out of memory is a good place to start, but overstepping bounds and having wild, uncaught exceptions is another.

Once I finally got the app open, it was time to see if I could scroll though my feed. I could, at a staggering… 5FPS. Seriously, it was slow enough that I could watch the screen tear. I tried commenting on someone’s post.

It crashed, again.

I was a little furious.

“What hellish creation have Facebook created, then” I ask myself. The short answer to that question is that they have done what I would fully expect them to do: In as sideways as possible a fashion, smash a browser that isn’t meant for this platform into an app and make it weigh more than I’d be comfortable if it were a point-and-click adventure game.

The Lumia 550 and 650 both ship with 1GB of RAM. The 950, in contrast, ships with 3GB of RAM. What’s this mean?

It means I can’t say anything. My review is null and void because, according to the store, I shouldn’t be able to run this app.

Bonus, this app has a 5 star rating that I can’t interact with:

I can’t provide my 1-star counter-review going “I want 272MB of my phone back.” Facebook: consider this my zero-star review of your handling of your app.

On top of that, I didn’t quite realize but I’d pulled those 290MB over 4G, which means I just burned 15% of my data allowance for the month (December was a heavy month for me, okay?) To put that in perspective, I’ve taken 65 photos in the last 11 days. At about 2.5MB a pop, that’s 160MB or so.

Facebook takes up more space than the 12 photos I took in the year to date. I figured out that I used less storage on my pictures (about 100 in the last calendar month) than Facebook took up in one sitting.

I wondered to myself “Can I get my old Facebook app back?” The answer is no. The store shows I can download it, but when I do it simply says “this item is not owned by you”, despite the fact that when I go to its page (Author: Microsoft Corporation) it says I own it, but can’t install it.

I’d like to take a second to note that the one built by Microsoft comes in at a svelte 18 megabytes and required a lightweight 512M minimum RAM. Eighteen megabytes is smaller than the last week of photos I’ve taken.

Of course, because of how the handover has been done, there is no record of the old Facebook app. Software that worked this morning is now gone.

This is really a failure on multiple fronts: First, of Microsoft being AWOL when it comes to handling transitions between apps, Facebook pushing a change that really doesn’t make things better, and the general lack of actual benefit left a sour taste in my mouth.

Let’s not do this again, shall we?

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