Facebook’s mobile app for Android can be crawlingly slow on mediocre internet connections. And if you happen to be in certain 2G circles here in India, you know exactly what I’m talking about. To help people use its mobile app in such slow connections, Facebook has today announced Facebook lite, a stripped down version of the original app for places with poor internet connectivity.
Facebook Lite, by the very looks of it, is a minimalistic version designed specifically for countries in developing regions like Asia, Africa and parts of Europe & Latin America. In Asia, Facebook’s target market will be more of South-East Asia and probably India. While metros and tier II in India do have decent internet connections, expensive data plans force customers to limit their internet usage.
Facebook Lite is less than 1MB so it is fast to install and quick to load. It includes Facebook’s core experiences like News Feed, status updates, photos, notifications and more and also keeps in mind that data usage is precious to you.
The main way Facebook makes the app use less data is by never pre-loading full-resolution images. Photos and previews of links will appear a bit distorted at first, and will only load completely once you approve of it. Besides that, Facebook Lite makes sure that it doesn’t reload the entire app every time you open it. It tries to makes as less round trips to its servers back in California, as possible.
Apart from obviously targeting users with slow connections or expensive data plans, Facebook Lite is also a step in Facebook’s recent attempts to tap into markets where it still has low penetration.
If you take a look at various schemes which the social networking giant rolled out in the past few years (and continues to do even today), you get a fair bit of idea about Facebook’s relentless pursuit of the developing world. It had, less than half a decade ago, announced Facebook Zero, a uSSD based text message Facebook which carriers provided to their customers, free of cost. While it did gain some intital traction, it failed to capitalise on the same.
Then you have Facebook much talked about Internet.Org initiative, which more recently expanded to Pakistan, despite being at the receiving end in its biggest market outside of US, India. But even though many major partners pulled out of Internet.Org due to more of a brand building measure than actual consumer-concern, Internet.Org managed to pull off a decent consumer base.
Starting today, Facebook is rolling out Facebook Lite in countries across Asia, and over the coming weeks Facebook Lite will be available in parts of Latin America, Africa and Europe.