With an eye to extending its reach in the developing world, Facebook has launched a new version of its Android app called “Facebook Lite,” which uses much less data by paring down the social network to its essential functions. That should make it much more accessible for people with older devices, limited mobile data plans, or who live in areas with patchy coverage, including large parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America.
According to Facebook the app requires a mere megabyte of storage, which is roughly 1% of the amount required by the data-happy regular app. It offers a lot of the basic, and most engaging, features of Facebook including browsing the newsfeed, viewing pictures, posting updates, and getting notifications, but doesn’t offer video or some location-based functions.
The new Facebook Lite app is separate from Internet.org, Facebook’s project to expand Internet access in the developing world, in part by persuading mobile service providers to grant free access to certain sites like Wikipedia and Facebook.
It’s also unrelated to Facebook’s zany/visionary plan to bring Internet access to remote and underserved regions using giant solar-powered drones. In March 2014 Facebook acquired a British firm, Ascenta, which also makes high-altitude long-endurance drones. The firm was integrated into Facebook’s Connectivity Lab as part of the Internet.org project.
Google is said to be pursuing a similar plan for Internet access delivered by unmanned drones. In April 2014 the search giant bought Titan Aerospace, which also makes high-altitude solar-powered drones. Google is also researching ways to expand coverage with satellites and high-altitude balloons.