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Facebook’s latest attempt to reach developing markets is a pared-down Messenger app

AP Photo/Jeff Chiu
Going after the next billion.
  • Ananya Bhattacharya
By Ananya Bhattacharya

Tech reporter

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

Facebook is giving users with slow internet their own version of Messenger.

The social media giant has tapered its Messenger offerings to make an app for people with older devices or low connectivity. Messenger Lite is a “slimmed down version,” which offers the core features of Messenger like “quickly and easily send text, photos, and links to anyone,” Tom Mulcahy, Facebook’s engineering manager for Messenger Lite, wrote in a blog post Sunday (Oct. 2).

The standalone version of Messenger is launching on Android—the most popular operating system in developing countries because it runs on low-cost devices.  At under 10 megabytes, installation and launch is quick and it takes up much less space than the full 156-megabyte version. Messenger Lite users will not be able to interact with bots or have access to Messenger for Business. Facebook did not immediately respond to Quartz about whether the app will allow audio or video calls. It is first being made available in Kenya, Tunisia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and Venezuela and will start rolling out in other countries in coming months.

Facebook’s latest foray to score users in developing markets follows various other attempts. Last year, the company launched an alternative to its flagship app—Facebook Lite—which is designed to work on 2G wireless networks as well, and it reached 100 million downloads by March 2016. Prior to that, the company launched, which offers a suite of online services covering health, education, jobs, and communication. While India resisted Facebook’s advances at least partly because of net neutrality concerns, Pakistan and much of sub-Saharan Africa have embraced it. In India, the company is testing 125 express-wifi hotspots in rural areas.

Facebook’s flagship Messenger app has already surpassed 1 billion users, and with Lite, it’s aiming for the next billion.

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