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Facebook wants to make sure people around the world can access their Facebook accounts, despite what data connectivity they might have.
To enable people in developing countries with low-end Android devices to connect with friends, Facebook is testing Facebook Lite, a standalone application designed for areas with limited data connectivity and for 2G networks.
The app is only available in Bangladesh, Nepal, Nigeria, South Africa, Sudan, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe, TechCrunch reports, and is based off the company’s feature phone client, Snaptu. The app looks and acts like a stripped-down version of the Facebook application. It takes up less than 1 MB of space, meaning it’s fast to install and loads quickly.
People can share photos, chat with friends, and post status updates, just like they would on the regular Facebook site.
Facebook Lite is Facebook’s latest push into emerging markets, where smartphone use is skyrocketing. Growing adoption of low-end smartphones, including Google’s and Microsoft’s cheap handsets created for developing economies, is enabling more people to get online than ever before.
According to a 2014 Pew Internet study comparing smartphone use in the U.S. to emerging markets, although developing countries don’t have the same widespread adoption of smartphones, ownership is rising quickly, and many countries simply skipped landlines and went mobile. Additionally, in such areas where smartphone adoption is growing, people with smartphones are avid users of social media—a market Facebook dominates.
And in order to take advantage of those eyeballs and turn new smartphone owners into Facebook users, the company has multiple strategies to insert itself into the growing market.
In addition to Facebook Lite, Facebook’s Internet.org initiative aims to bring Internet to two-thirds of the world that doesn’t yet have it. In partnership with multiple telecom companies, the company is creating a way for people to get limited Internet access for free—including logging on to the social network.
Facebook Lite makes it easier for people with limited data connectivity to stay in touch with friends and family. And the tests running in limited markets could help Facebook improve other apps to function in areas with 2G data to help bring even more people into its services.
Selena Larson is a technology reporter based in San Francisco who writes about the intersection of technology and culture. Her work explores new technologies and the way they impact industries, human behavior, and security and privacy. Since leaving the Daily Dot, she's reported for CNN Money and done technical writing for cybersecurity firm Dragos.