Facebook quietly released a new Android app today. Titled 'Facebook Lite', this tiny 252KB app is designed to work on slow 2G networks and use minimal data. Wait a second, did that just describe the dream Facebook app that many people living in regions with poor connectivity have been waiting for since forever?
The app, released to the Play Store on January 20th, has between 10,000-50,000 installs only. But that is only because Facebook never went public with it. According to a TechCrunch report, Facebook chose to release the app in a limited number of countries, mainly targeting emerging markets in Africa and Asia.
The list of countries where Facebook Lite is available includes Bangladesh, Nepal, Nigeria, South Africa, Sudan, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Zimbabwe. These are perhaps those countries from where Facebook hopes to bring in their next billion, or 500 million users. Of course, this was a natural step for Facebook to take, as per their plans to continue expanding their global reach and acquiring new users. Bangladesh, Nigeria, and Vietnam are among the fastest growing nations for Smartphone adoption.
We definitely expect Facebook Lite to be made available in India at some point in the near future. After all, the screenshots of the app show pictures of a certain 'Natasha Dhingra' celebrating quality time with her family in Chennai, Tamil Nadu (South India).
Coming back to the app, Facebook Lite is extremely... lite. It weighs only 252KB, and is based on the Snaptu version of Facebook. Snaptu is the version of FB that runs on feature phones. A couple of features could be missing from this app. Stickers aren't in the Facebook Lite app, but that may be added in an update.
While the social networking company's initiative with Internet.org brings free web access and Facebook to extremely poor countries such as Ghana, Colombia, Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia, the 2G optimized Facebook Lite app where the company will acquire the next major chunk of new users.
Facebook Lite makes a lot of sense. With Facebook Lite, Facebook hopes to bring more people online than ever. And it might just become very successful at it.
Note: If you wish to download the Facebook Lite APK and sideload it onto your Android device, you may do so from APK Mirror.