Facebook has created an open source 'Infer' static program analyser in a bid to speed up iOS and Android bug hunting.
Infer engineering manager Peter O'Hearn unveiled the tool at a Facebook press session attended by V3, claiming the firm was forced to create the crash bug finder to keep up with its coders' rapid development cycles.
"When we're developing our mobile code if we ship it with a bug it's tough to release a fix. The nature of mobile means that when there's a bug on mobile it can persist forever. This is a serious challenge for Facebook as its developers are working really fast," he said.
"So Facebook has needed a solution to this. This is where static analysis comes in. Static analysis is a robot that crawls over code, finds bugs and reports to the developers.
"The problem is it doesn't normally scale to the needs of a company of Facebook's size. So we did work in the scientific and academic community to take this hard deep theory and apply it to something on Facebook's scale."
Infer works by incrementally analysing the code modifications pitched by developers to app source code and reports problems caused by null pointer access and resource and memory leaks before they are added to the product.
The tool is already being used by Facebook and has an average 80 percent fix rate, according to the firm.
Facebook claimed that the tool is special as it combines separation logic and bi-abduction technologies to deal with Facebook's high demands.
"Separation logic is a theory that allows Facebook Infer's analysis to reason about small independent parts of the application storage," explained Facebook in a blog post.
"Bi-abduction is a logical inference technique that allows Facebook Infer to discover properties about the behaviour of independent parts of the application code.
"By combining these approaches, Facebook Infer is able to find complex problems in modifications to an application built from millions of lines of code, in minutes."
Facebook head of open source James Pearce said that the firm released the tool to the open source community in the hope that it will generate new and unexpected uses and ways to improve Infer.
"Our goal is to open source as much of our technology as possible, especially when it helps engineers. On the one hand this is because when we build something that will be useful to others we want to share it," he said.
"But more importantly it's good business. Open sourcing helps us write better software and code and lets us keep the best engineers as they get to share their work.
"We'll be more successful if the open source community and industry can innovate on the problems we have."
Dave Mortenson, Facebook's director of developer infrastructure, added that the company has already had great success working with the open source community on things like PHP, and expects similar results with Infer.
"We get more innovation and speed of ideas by open sourcing. Our engineers become more open minded about what can be done with these things," he said.
Facebook is one of many companies and institutions espousing the benefits of open source technology.
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