Facebook has rolled out a new Android app for its social media service that uses less data, and runs faster in regions with spotty connections.
The app, called Facebook Lite, is available in countries across Asia and will soon make its way to parts of Latin America, Africa and Europe, Vijay Shankar, product manager for Facebook Lite, said in an interview. In many of those countries, people still use 2G networks, which are much slower and have less power than the 4G networks in many developed nations.
“We want to offer people a choice so if there are limitations, they can still get the full Facebook experience,” Shankar said.
The app uses less than one-half of a megabyte of data to limit data usage and rates for those in emerging markets. While it still supports Facebook’s News Feed, status updates, notifications and photos, it does not support videos and advanced location services.
Here’s how Facebook Lite looks:
The app is Android-only — but that’s to be expected. Targeted at those coming online for the first time, generally with very low incomes, they will almost certainly be using Google’s OS on a low-cost device rather than the prohibitively expensive iPhone or other platforms.
Facebook Lite is part of a broader expansion by the world’s largest social network into emerging markets. CEO Mark Zuckerberg also heads up Internet.org, a platform developed with six technology partners to try and connect 4.5 billion people who currently have no access to the internet. (A spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal that Facebook Lite and Internet.org are not directly related, however).
Internet.org’s efforts have become mired in difficulties in recent weeks. Critics say the platform runs counter to net neutrality — the principle that all data should be treated equally — because it subsidizes some data or provides it at no cost. It was also criticised as a “walled garden” that locks users into a small ecosystem unreflective of the broader internet. Internet.org countered this by opening its platform up to the broader developer community.
(Reporting by Yasmeen Abutaleb; Editing by Richard Chang)