UPDATED 09:15 EDT / JANUARY 26 2015

Facebook launches “Lite” Android app for emerging markets

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook Inc. quietly launched a new app over the weekend called Facebook Lite, which targets low-end Android phones in developing countries.

Facebook Lite launched simultaneously in several developing countries over the weekend, including Bangladesh, Nepal, Nigeria, South Africa, Sudan, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Zimbabwe.

Facebook has yet to make an official announcement regarding the launch of Facebook Lite, but the new app shares similarities with the Facebook-backed Internet.org program that was recently launched in Colombia. Like the Internet.org app,  Facebook Lite is aimed at users in developing countries that do not posess the infrastructure for highspeed internet nor the processing power of top-of-the-line smartphones.

However, unlike Internet.org’s program, Facebook Lite is meant to directly draw in new Facebook users rather than provide better internet tools in general.

The new app is designed to use a minimal amount of resources while still providing most of the same features as the full Facebook app. The file size of the Facebook Lite is only 252 KB,  a tiny fraction of the size of the regular Facebook Android app, and it provides a roughly similar experience to using Facebook’s mobile website.

Facebook had already tweaked its core Facebook android app in 2014, improving its efficiency and reducing resource consumption.

“Our trip to Africa really highlighted the importance of our work on mobile performance, data efficiency, networking reliability, and application size for emerging markets,” Facebook’s Alex Sourov wrote at the time. “We’ve made a concerted effort to improve in all these areas and achieved a significant amount of success in the past year.”

While Facebook Lite is only available in eight countries at the moment, it is likely that that social network will monitor its success and push the release out to more locations in the future. A prime target for Facebook would be India, one of the most populous countries in the world with a rapidly growing mobile market. It is unknown whether Facebook would make the app available in non-developing nations like the U.S.

If you are in one of the countries where Facebook Lite is available, you can download Facebook Lite on Google Play.


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