Facebook launched 0.Facebook.com today, a stripped-down version of its mobile site that is free, even for users without unlimited data plans.
The new mobile site will be inaccessible to users not signed up with participating carriers, which — for now, at least — means most people. Facebook has signed up 50 mobile operators across 45 different countries, with more to follow soon.
Users won’t be able to view pictures without paying up, but will otherwise have full access to the network.
Word of this service first leaked in February, but Facebook never officially confirmed it before today’s release.
In countries where smartphone access is rare and data costs are prohibitive, Facebook has lost out to less bandwidth intensive social networks, in some cases ones that are entirely SMS-based. Looking at the list of countries covered by the new service, it looks like Facebook is serious about making inroads in less-wired parts of the world.