Facebook is testing an uber-streamlined version of its site that limits users to making comments, writing on other people’s walls, and looking at photos and status updates. For now, Facebook says it is testing the version — called Lite — “in countries where we are seeing lots of new users coming to Facebook for the first time and are looking to start off with a more simple experience.” But if Facebook did roll out the Lite version more broadly it could have big business implications. Among them:
— Competition: Facebook Lite bears a striking resemblance to Twitter, which is the site that poses the most risk to Facebook’s current dominance. (See screenshots via Mashable). Rather than continue to introduce Twitter-like features to Facebook and risk alienating its users, Facebook could relegate those features to its Lite version, thereby creating a direct Twitter competitor.
— Advertising possibilities: With a simplified user interface, ads stand out more. That’s particularly important, since currently they can easily get lost in the sea of Facebook apps. And Facebook Lite could appeal to specific demographic groups — potentially, more tech savvy early adopters or alternatively new Facebook users.-
— FriendFeed integration: Facebook purchased FriendFeed earlier this week — but hasn’t outlined its plans for the site. If Facebook wants to continue to operate the sharing service but also integrate it in a limited way with Facebook, Facebook Lite could be the place.
— Back to its roots: Facebook took off in part by offering a standard look to its pages, in contrast to MySpace’s hodgepodge of designs. As users increasingly customize their Facebook pages with apps, though, that has changed. Facebook Lite offers an alternative.
— Expansion: And, finally, Facebook continues to grow rapidly around the word — but ultimately it is going to have to depend mostly on emerging markets — where people are beginning to adopt the internet and PCs — to fuel its growth. A simplified version of the social network could be more attractive to users in those countries — as Facebook itself implies in its public comments.