Facebook is reportedly pushing an update to its main application for Android which changes the app’s target API to Android 7.1 Nougat. It also follows an announcement from Google late last year which indicated that all app developers that want to continue distributing through the Google Play Store will need to be targeting the latest API. The targeting is intended to ensure some standardization for how apps interact with the underlying system. Bearing that in mind, the purpose of that policy change is to address the widespread fragmentation of the operating system and to improve security. Facebook’s switch to Nougat falls in line with the policy’s requirement for a “recent” API to be targeted by August of this year.
However, that policy change technically means that Facebook will need to update all of its applications to that target with a little over a month left to go. Once that’s done, all of its apps will need to be updated again to target Android 8.0 Oreo by November. That’s just the first cut-off of many going forward, with subsequent yearly updates required to keep the application up-to-date with targeting set to the most recent Android OS update. For example, the next update to the policy will shift the required API level to Android P. Aside from that change, Facebook will also need to ensure its applications are offered with support for 64-bit processing by August 2019. That change will presumably ensure higher performance on devices that support it, which could feasibly be all devices by that point, as well as better security management.
All of the incoming changes appear geared toward a lower level of fragmentation in terms of how well applications on the Play Store work with the wide variety of Android devices available. Moreover, they should ensure that those users who own the latest handsets are getting the best experience possible on their end. All app developers will need to follow the changes in order to keep their apps distributed via the Google Play Store. So it’s good to see Facebook getting on board and ensuring that its applications will be ready to go when the deadline hits.