Facebook is releasing a new app for so-called feature phones, phones that aren’t quite as advanced as smartphones like the iPhone and Android phones.Why is this important? Aren’t we all moving to smartphones anyway? In the US and Europe we are.
But in most developing countries, where Facebook is growing fastest, feature phones are still huge. Silicon Valley designer Luke Wroblewski tweeted he saw a sign at Facebook HQ that said: “You Don’t Get To 500 Million Mobile Users Without A Few Feature Phones.”
More people have mobile phones than have the internet, and most of those people are in the developing world, where people are getting online first through phones, and through computers later. People in the developing world are younger, their countries grow faster, and they are beginning to get acquainted with online services that they might be faithful to for life. Being at the ground level of this huge trend is a really big deal for Facebook. Emerging countries already have mobile social networking services like SMS Gupshup in India and Mxit in South Africa that are extremely popular.
Facebook partnered with carriers to bring the app to users for free and with free use, in countries like Sri Lanka, Ukraine and Tunisia.
Since Facebook wants to own social networking and interactions wherever they happen, in a few years from now Facebook might be a mobile-first, desktop-second company.