In January this year, online social networking giant Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FB) realized that the new Facebook features is making its official app bulky and hogging user resources, keeping the first time smartphone and 2G users in developing countries such as India, away from the app. Consequently, today, Facebook has launched another scaled-down version of its native app, named Facebook Lite, especially designed for first-time smartphone & mobile internet users on the more prevalent and relatively slow 2G network.
The Advent of Facebook Lite
The new Facebook Lite app is designed with a focus on providing a seamless experience of the social networking site on slow mobile Internet connectivity. Meanwhile, Facebook encourages even those users who are enjoying faster mobile Internet connectivity, to install the app au parallel to the standard Facebook app. This will help users to shuffle between the two versions depending on their inherent mobile connectivity and stay connected with the near and dear ones on Facebook, irrespective of what their internet speeds are.
“Over 875 million people across the world access Facebook over 2G. Majority of these users belong to emerging markets. We want to provide seamless experience of Facebook to all of these people on their mobile devices, just like the other hundred of million users, who are accessing Facebook current official app on high speed mobile internet.” says Vijay Shankar, Global Product Head – Facebook Lite.
To make Facebook Lite more adoptable by the 2G internet community, Facebook has trimmed the frills off the existing full-fledged version of the Facebook app and made available the faster loading, lighter version all of 430KB in size. Shifting most of the processing and caching load onto the server now, the newer version puts less burden on the user and helps the user consume lesser mobile data.
Facebook Lite: A Much-Appreciated But Delayed Initiative
The introduction of Facebook Lite is definitely a much-appreciated move, but the initiative has taken place at the time when adoption of low-priced, yet powerful, smartphones is on the rise. Besides, most of the 2G users have started migrating from 2G to 3G as telecom providers in India have slashed 3G data pack prices and doubled the price of 2G data, making 3G connectivity more preferable.
According to the Global Internet Report 2014, by September 2012 developing countries had more than 50% of the world’s mobile broadband subscribers. This would have been the ideal time for Facebook to capitalize on the growing penetration of first-time mobile internet users. India, being the fastest developing country and the biggest market of smartphones in Asia, a lighter version of Facebook would have made a lot more sense back then.
Nonetheless, the approximately 129 million Facebook users in India would be more than happy by this move of Facebook, even though delayed. Out of the 129 million, 102 million access Facebook via mobile phones. While about 85% of Facebook mobile users are on smartphones, staggering, 82 million of them use the Android platform. Considering, 49% of the 163 million smartphones shipped in India by the end of Q1 2015 were sub-$150, it is quite evident that most of these users would mercilessly shift from the native Facebook app to Facebook Lite, launched today in India. It’s late though, but Facebook still has got a sizable market to capture and probably it could add another 100 million Indians to its network.