Facebook is targeting users of entry-level Android devices with a new app that is now available in a handful of developing countries.
The app is called Facebook Lite and is basically a low-fi version of the full app known by hundreds of millions of users worldwide. Lite, which appears to be actually a wrapper for a web app, is just 262KB in size and it should work even on devices with very low processing power and slow 2G connections. As TechCrunch’s Jon Russell notes, the app is based on Snaptu, an app that Facebook acquired in 2011, which allows Facebook to run on some feature phones.
The app is fairly basic in functionality and design, but all the key components are present, including Messenger, Pages, Groups, and more. There’s also notification support, so users should be able to rely on it for the core Facebook experience. Here’s the app’s Play Store description:
- Fast to install — the app is less than 1 MB
- Quick to load
- Efficient with data
- Designed for 2G networks and areas with limited network connectivity
From testing the app on my Mate 7, performance and responsiveness are clearly several notches below the full Facebook app, but that is to be expected from an application designed to run on basic devices.
The app appears to have been quietly launched on January 20. For now, Facebook Lite is available in Bangladesh, Nepal, Nigeria, South Africa, Sudan, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe. These are all markets where connectivity is spotty, at best, and where smartphone penetration is still low. Facebook appears to be using these locales as a test bed before rolling out Facebook Lite to more regions.
Update – Permissions:
Facebook has a clear interest in getting more users online, given how user acquisition has tapered off (or even turned negative) in most developed markets. Facebook Lite is just one of the initiatives that Mark Zuckerberg’s company is pursuing in developing markets, with other examples being Internet.org (bringing free Internet access to underserved areas) and Facebook Zero (sponsored access to Facebook).