To cast its net wider than the 125 million Indians who are already accessing the world’s largest social networking site, Facebook has unveiled a new version of its application called Facebook Lite — a compressed version of the application. The idea is to expand the reach of Facebook to a much wider audience, especially those who do not necessarily use high-end smart phones or have slow data connections. According to Vijay Shankar, head of products, Facebook Lite, the application size is less than 1 MB at 430 KB, against the full version’s size of 30 MB. “It is much lighter, consumes much less data and performs much faster,” said Shankar. The application contains most of the core features of regular application such as News Feed, status updates, photos and notifications. Other features such as videos and direct replies to individual comments are still work-in-progress, Shankar added. One billion people across the world are on the slower 2G network; in India, the figure is 874 million or roughly 80 per cent of the total subscriber base in the country. While the application was launched in India on Monday, the company says it is being downloaded at a “crazy” pace.
The launch comes after Facebook Lite — which took a year to build — debuted in other emerging markets of the world earlier this month. “India is a representation of the challenges facing other emerging markets, too,” said Shankar. The company developed the application after much market research in the hinterlands of the country to understand the issues being faced by people while accessing Facebook. Shankar said Facebook had two options – one was to fine-tune its existing application and the other to build something from scratch. “We would have made incremental changes had we picked the first option, but this change means addressing the issues at a more fundamental level,” added Shankar. ALSO READ: Facebook's userbase touches 125 million in India
Apart from the regular features of the application, the Lite version will give users the option of choosing the quality of the pictures (lower resolution pictures means faster loading and less data usage) along with integrating Facebook messenger in the application, which was not the case earlier.
Globally, Facebook has 1.4 billion people on its network. In a post on June 4, Facebook's founder Mark Zeckerberg had said, "We're starting to roll out Facebook Lite across Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe, and it will be available in the Play store. We're going to keep working to serve the entire world, and we'll keep building tools for people in every community until we're all connected." Shankar added in another post, more than a billion people around the world access Facebook from a range of mobile devices on varying networks. "In many areas, networks can be slow and not able to support all the functionality found in Facebook for Android. Facebook Lite was built for these situations, giving people a reliable Facebook experience when bandwidth is at a minimum," he said.