Releasing Your Actions to Alpha and Beta Environments

Testing your Actions with users gives you the opportunity to get early feedback and fix any technical or user experience issues before you release it widely. You can then be confident about releasing the best version of your Action to the rest of your users.

The Actions Console supports release environments so that you can give a limited set of users access to test a new Action, or newer version of your existing Action, before deploying it to the public.

Lifecycle of a release

There are two types of release environments that the Actions Console supports:

  • Alpha: You should create an alpha release to quickly test early versions of your Action. This channel lets you distribute an Action to a small set of users without going through a full Google review. Users will be given warnings that the Action hasn’t undergone a Google review for policy compliance. Once you've tested with a smaller group of employees or trusted users, you can expand your test to a closed beta release.
  • Beta: This channel lets you distribute an Action to a limited set of users after passing a full Google review. You should use this channel to give users outside your organization access to early versions of the Action. Users will be informed that the Action is a preview version. Since the closed beta version has passed Google review, you can elect to make it public at any time without another review by Google.

The following diagram shows the lifecycle of an Action with release environments.

Figure 1. Lifecycle of an Action with release environments.

After creating an Actions project in the Actions Console, you can submit the draft Action for alpha release. If there are no issues with your draft, the console publishes your Action in the alpha channel. You can choose to unpublish the alpha version of your Action at any time.

When you submit your draft or alpha Action for release in the beta or production release channels, Google will conduct a full review of your Action. If your Action is approved for beta release, you can move it to production at any time. You can also choose to unpublish the beta version of your Action at any time. If the Action is rejected during the review, you’ll receive feedback from Google on what needs to be fixed.

Note that you can only have one "live" alpha or beta version of your Action published per Actions project.

Understanding the differences between release environments

The table below summarizes the differences between the different deployment channels.

Test App ("Talk to my test app") Alpha Beta Production
Intended audience The developer only. Early testers within your team, friends, and family. Testers outside of your team. All Google Assistant users.
Requires Google Review? No. No. Yes. Yes
Who has access The developer only. Developer-defined list of users. Users must opt in. Developer-defined list of users. Users must opt in. Publicly available to all Google Assistant users.
Max # of users 1 20 200 Not applicable
Where available Simulator and all Assistant devices. All Assistant devices. All Assistant devices. All Assistant devices.
Dialogflow Supported. Supported. Supported. Yes
Actions SDK Supported. Supported. Supported. Yes
Smart Home Supported (requires account linking). Not supported. Not supported. Yes
Templates Supported. Not supported. Not supported. Yes
Explicit invocation Supported. Supported. Supported. Yes
Implicit invocation No. Supported. Supported. Yes
Account linking Supported. Supported. Supported. Yes

Set up alpha/beta releases

To set up your Action for the alpha or beta release channel, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Manage Release page. Open your Actions project in the Actions Console. In the left navigation, scroll down to the Deploy section and click on the Release link.

    Figure 2. Actions Console (Manage Releases screen.)
  2. Select the release channel. In the Manage Releases page, click on the button to submit for alpha or beta release.

  3. Select the languages for your release. The list of languages you can select will be based on the ones you configured for your Action project in the Languages page.

  4. Complete the release checklist. Indicate you have completed the required steps. Then, click the Submit for Review button.

  5. Select testers. In the next dialog, click on the button to whitelist testers to try your alpha or beta version. Then, enter the email addresses for the testers. You can specify up to 20 testers for alpha testing and up to 200 testers for beta testing. Testers must have a Google account (@gmail.com) or a G Suite account. You cannot whitelist multiple users via a Google group email alias. Click Save to complete your submission.

  6. Invite testers. You should send an invitation email to whitelisted testers with a link to the alpha or beta version of your Action. To learn more, see Get feedback.

The opt-in link represents your Action directory page and never changes. Your testers will be directed to your directory page and see the opt-in card for the eligible environment. If you whitelisted the same testers for alpha and beta, they are eligible for both and will see an opt-in card for the alpha version first.

After the alpha or beta version is submitted, it appears in the Manage Releases page with a status (Under review, Denied, or Deployed).

Manage releases

Once you have submitted your Action for release to a release channel, you can still make further changes to manage users, test the version, or withdraw the version.

To perform these tasks:

  1. In the Manage Releases page, scroll to the section for the live alpha or beta release.
  2. Click on the 'more' icon with 3 vertical dots located to the right of the section.
  3. Select one of these options:
    • Deploy to Production. Deploys the beta version of your Action to production. This option is only available for versions that have been reviewed and approved by Google.
    • Undeploy. This unpublishes your live Action from the release channel that it was deployed to.
    • Test this version. Opens the Actions Console simulator to test this version of the Action.
    • Withdraw from review. Withdraws the request to review that version. The version will be listed in the overview table as ‘Not reviewed’. You can still submit it for review later or re-deploy to the alpha release channel.
    • Submit for Review. If your version in alpha is not reviewed yet, you can submit it for review to be deployed to beta or production.

Implement fulfillment for alpha/beta releases

The release channel information is not included in the HTTP request from the Assistant to your fulfillment. To handle release channels in your fulfillment, you should provide different fulfillment URLs (for example, one fulfillment URL for the beta and another URL for the production version of your Action).

Get feedback

Once your Action has been published to the alpha or beta release channel, you should invite whitelisted testers by sharing your opt-in link (which is the same as your directory link).

Make sure to indicate to your testers that they must:

  • Have the Google Assistant app downloaded on their mobile devices in order to perform alpha/beta testing.
  • Log in to the Google Assistant app using the same account which you whitelisted as an alpha/beta tester.

After you deploy your Action, any new testers that you added will need to wait for at least 3 hours before they can access the Action using the opt-in link.

When users click on this link, they are directed to the corresponding Action's directory page. They should click on the I'm in button at the bottom of the Action's directory page to opt in as a tester for the first time.

After the tester opts in on their phone, your Action will immediately be available on all of their devices. Testers will see your Action in the My Apps section of the Google Assistant app labelled with one of these modes: Alpha, Beta, or No testing. The No testing option will serve users the Production version of your Action if available. If there is no Production version, users will not be served with anything.

Best practices

  • Make sure users can join the tests. Your testers will need to have a Google account (@gmail.com) or a G Suite account to join a test.
  • Choose the appropriate testing type. An alpha testing group should be small and test the least stable, experimental versions of your actions (such as within your company or team). Use beta testing with a larger group to test stable versions of your actions that are near release.
  • Provide a channel for testers to send you feedback. Alpha and beta channels are only available to your own testers. Make sure to offer them the ability to provide feedback by email, via a website, in a message forum, or through another suitable mechanism.
  • Run concurrent tests on the same action. You can run an alpha and beta tests concurrently.

Known issues

  • The Actions directory for the web is not supported for opt-in to alpha/beta. Make sure your testers follow the link on their mobile devices (Android or iOS).
  • Your changes may take a few hours to go live. Please hold off for an appropriate period of time before sharing the opt-in link with your users.