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Facebook has a workaround for India’s frustratingly slow internet

Itika Sharma Punit
By Itika Sharma Punit

Co-editor, Quartz India

Facebook plans to test a feature that will let internet users in its second largest market view video without having to put up with India’s slow internet speeds. A pilot project for few users will be launched on July 11, TechCrunch reported.

“We’ve heard feedback that in markets like India, mobile data and internet connectivity is limited and many people struggle with poor video experiences,” a Facebook spokesperson told Quartz. “So we’re testing an option for people to download videos to Facebook while they’re online on good internet connections, to view the video at anytime, online or offline, without using extra mobile data.”

With over 142 million users, India is the largest market for Facebook outside the US.

At a time when internet usage is tapering off in developed countries, Indians are lapping it up. In 2015, internet usage in India grew 40%, according to some estimates. Despite having the second-highest number of internet users, penetration of the net in India is at around 15%. Smartphone users in India are also expanding exponentially. In 2015, India toppled the US to become the second-largest market for smartphones, after China.

This throws up a massive opportunity for internet giants like Facebook and Google.

However, India’s slow internet speeds have been a challenge.

Asian countries like South Korea, Japan, and Hong Kong are among the top 10 countries with the best internet speeds globally. But India ranks poorly:

CountryGlobal ranking
South Korea1
Japan4
Hong Kong6
Singapore16
Taiwan21
New Zealand41
Thailand42
Australia48
Malaysia73
Sri Lanka78
China89
Indonesia92
Vietnam95
Philippines107
India114

Internet search company Google has been developing and pushing apps in India that can be navigated offline. In December 2014, YouTube launched the offline viewing feature in India.

Facebook has been chipping away at YouTube’s crown in the videos space for some time. In January, Facebook acquired video compression platform Quickfire Networks to strengthen its video presence.

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