An Update on XDA Labs

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It was five years ago that we launched XDA Labs after hundreds of hours of development. The primary purpose was to create an alternate app distribution platform for developers that couldn’t host on Google Play. Labs had other features such as beta and alpha channels (before Google added the same to Google Play) to enable developers to have more control over their app distribution and testing. Not only that, but Labs let users get early access to new versions of popular apps with an update mechanism that would “push” updates to phones often days or weeks before Google or other big developers did full rollouts of new app versions.

In addition to being an app platform, XDA Labs also included a way to browse the XDA forums through a ground-up forum app we built in house using our own API. However, it’s been five years, and we find ourselves having to make some difficult decisions as we look towards the future of XDA where we plan to make XDA the best place in the world to talk about your tech.

The most significant decision we’ve made recently was to move from an outdated software platform (vBulletin) to something more modern and flexible (XenForo). This undertaking was huge and presented issues that have been resolved (thanks everyone for your patience!), and we’re happy to report that the forums are now stable and relatively fast, and our members have been pretty happy with the upgrade. Along with the migration we recently introduced the new XDA App, built using a platform that allows a combination of native and webviews (for those trying to learn how to use the new app, we have a great guide in the forums).

There’s yet another big change we have to announce, and we do it with a heavy heart knowing that it will affect several developers who have come to rely on XDA Labs to distribute their app: XDA Labs has been shut off and there are no current plans for further development.

Why such a drastic move? There are multiple reasons for it, the biggest of which come down to resources: the team that runs XDA is small and we can no longer dedicate the resources needed to continue running and maintaining Labs. Labs has many inherent costs we are no longer able to support as a business. We always wanted Labs to be free, and we see no path to keep it viable at this juncture.

What about those that have relied on Labs to distribute their apps and will mourn its loss? We’re sorry that we have to pull the plug on this project, and we’re sympathetic to the fact that you put your trust in the Labs platform only to have it unplugged. If it’s any consolation, effective today (12/31/20), we are massively increasing attachment limits in the XDA forums to 2GB. External users do not require an XDA account to download attachments; just share the file URL as you need! While this isn’t the same as the Labs app store, we do hope this still provides you a resource from which to distribute your app.

When we first announced the forum migration a few months ago, we invited anyone interested in continuing to maintain Labs to contact us. Unfortunately, we’ve had no viable proposals. We are willing to open-source the entire project if anyone would like to pick up the mantle. If you’re interested, please contact XDA Admin svetius.

In the meantime, we want to say thank you to everyone who made Labs possible. Many thanks to XDA Recognized Developer blk_jack, who was the godfather and main creator of this app, plus the many other testers, coordinators, and developers that worked on Labs in any shape or form. Many thanks to the dev team at XDA for maintaining it over the years, and to all our forum members who made our Labs dream possible. Labs was born out of a need from our community and while we’re unable to support it going forward, we truly hope that the community will rise up and continue keeping Labs running.

We’ve got lots of special plans for XDA as a whole and the XDA community and we can’t wait to share them with you in 2021 and beyond! Thanks for your ongoing support!

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