New service applies social networking to app testing

A new startup is using social-networking concepts to provide application bug-test services.

Massachusetts startup uTest is launching an on-demand service that weds application testing to social networking through a community of more than 8,000 professional testers in roughly 130 countries.

Users provide uTest with a link to their application and select a test team from the community with the appropriate skill-sets and demographics for the job. Customers communicate with testers through the uTest platform, which also integrates with in-house bug-tracking systems such as Bugzilla.

The company offers two payment models. The "on-demand" option is for companies that need testing services periodically, not continually. Customers that choose this option buy a US$2,000 credit minimum for their accounts. The cost of an individual fix depends on factors like the type of application and how many testers are engaged. Customers pay only for approved bugs. For companies that require testing on a regular, continuous basis, uTest offers an annual subscription option, which includes a discount for approved bugs and requires a monthly payment.

It's not always cost-effective for smaller companies to hire QA teams, and larger enterprises that want to do some outsourcing might have to sign a long-term contract, said CEO Doron Reuveni.

"QA testing is a peak business," he added, with teams stretched near the end of release cycles. An adjunct like uTest can help customers handle those peaks efficiently, he said.

Also, the community model affords customers a great deal of granularity in choosing testers, such as a German-speaking one for Macintosh applications or an English speaker with ample experience in testing games, Reuveni said.

The largest number of testers are in India (32 percent), followed by the U.S. (27 percent) and UK (9 percent). "We do not have a huge presence in China or the Pacific Rim," Reuveni said.

The system is working out for customers such as Doron Shavit, testing director in the technology division of online gaming company 888.com. Shavit has used uTest as a supplement to his internal teams, particularly to determine how their systems interact with a wide variety of client machines. "As a B-to-C company, we have to have a better understanding of what our end-users are using," he said.

At one point, 888.com's uTest team discovered that some sound files in an application weren't compatible with certain sound cards, Shavit noted: "That's something we could never have found out in our labs."

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