If like us you live in a developed country, you’d be forgiven for not knowing what Facebook’s Lite app is, but it’s exactly what it says on the tin – a lightweight version of the well known Facebook app, available in a select group of countries and designed to work on lower-end Android smartphones in poor network conditions.
Since its launch in 2015, usage of the Facebook Lite has grown to 200 million, and with 100 million of those new users downloading the app in the last year, it’s overtaken Facebook’s full-fat app in terms of new user growth.
In many developing countries where landline infrastructure doesn’t exist, mobile phone networks have become a personal and business necessity, and have opened up opportunities for communication, banking, and marketing that have never existed before. While the opportunities are there, smartphone capabilities and signal strength and reliability is still an issue for many.
Anyone with an aging phone will know that our memory and power hungry apps really take their toll on the phone’s performance – imagine running Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram on a lower end phone with spotty coverage, trying to take photos and videos to share with your friends. That’s where Facebook Lite comes in – the app takes up less than 1MB of memory and is designed to work whilst connected to 2G networks, making it perfect for users in developing countries who would struggle to use other social networking apps.
This week Facebook has announced vast improvements to Facebook Lite, but among the most exciting is the ability for users to manage brand pages directly within the app. This, coupled with Facebook’s lighter ‘slideshow’ ad format, which allows brands to target Facebook Lite users, opens up a whole new revenue stream for Zuckerberg et al., who have seen their Rest of The World revenue grow by 52% to $839 million per quarter.
By refusing to wait for infrastructure to catch up with the rest of the world and improving the Lite app, it’s obvious by the skyrocketing user numbers that Facebook is stealing a march on other social networks in developing countries – we wonder how long it will take for them to create an Instagram Lite before Snap get in on the act.