Facebook Lite, a streamlined version of the company’s main app designed for emerging markets, has arrived in developed countries, including the US, UK, France and Germany. By rolling out the app globally, Facebook is acknowledging that access to technology is unequal even in wealthy economies, while at the same time trying to attract more users to the platform.
The app was first launched in 2015, and is now available in more than 100 countries. It was created with Android users in mind, especially those in places with slow internet connections and on older phone models. The app is less than 1MB in size for many devices (on a new Samsung Galaxy S9+, it installed at about 1.6 MB), whereas the regular Facebook app is over 40MB.
“We’ve seen that even in some developed markets people can have lower connectivity, so we want to make sure everyone has the option to use this app if they want,” the company said, according to Reuters, which first reported the Lite rollout. A Facebook spokesperson told Quartz in a statement that the standalone app ”is a lighter weight version of Facebook but still has the features people love including News Feed, status updates, Stories, and camera/photo integration.”
About 39% of rural Americans do not have access to broadband internet, according to 2016 data from the US Federal Communications Commission. Many rely on mobile connections, which can be expensive, slow, and spotty in less densely populated areas, Sharon Strover, the director of the Telecommunications and Information Policy Institute, recently argued. Globally, the US ranks 28th in mobile internet speeds, according to a report by content delivery company Akamai.
Facebook Lite could also be an opportunity for the company to bring in more users in countries like the US, where the number of daily users fell for the first time in the last quarter of 2017.