Facebook is serious about spreading its service to people in countries without fast cellular networks or cutting-edge smartphones. Its new Android app, Facebook Lite, which isn’t available in the United States or Europe, is targeted at people with poor internet service or who are limited to 2G networks.
Facebook Lite clocks in at a 252KB download — about one hundredth the size of Facebook’s main Android app, which is around 25MB depending on your device. The app is based on the software that Facebook on feature phones uses, but it sports Android-specific features like push notifications and camera uploads. Unlike Facebook’s main app, Facebook Lite also includes Facebook Messenger.
This isn’t the first version of Facebook targeted at developing countries — Facebook previously used the “Facebook Lite” moniker in 2009 for a similarly stripped-down version of its website found on the web at lite.facebook.com. Facebook shut that site down in 2010.
In addition to lightweight versions of Facebook for Android, Facebook continues to adapt its service to feature phones without browsers as part of the Facebook Zero project. As part of the Facebook-led Internet.org program, Facebook and Facebook Messenger don’t count against users’ data caps in regions of Zambia. Plus, Facebook owns WhatsApp, which is the most popular messaging service in many developing nations.
Facebook Lite is only available in eight countries to start. People in Bangladesh, Nepal, Nigeria, South Africa, Sudan, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Zimbabwe with certain Android devices can download it from Google Play now.
Facebook’s director of global connectivity Chris Weasler spoke at Gigaom’s Structure Connect conference in 2014, telling a story about how Facebook employees reworked the Facebook app to make it 50 percent lighter on data usage after finding out they could barely use the service on Nigerian networks.