Facebook targets emerging markets with ‘Lite’ app

27/01/2015

Over the weekend, Facebook quietly launched a new ‘Facebook Lite’ app for Android, which is aimed at the low-end devices sold in emerging markets.


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Facebook Lite is available in eight countries: Bangladesh, Vietnam, Nigeria, Nepal, South Africa, Sudan, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe.

Facebook Lite takes less than 1 megabyte of storage space, according to a description of the app on the Google Play store for Android apps – substantially less than the standard app, which takes around 25MB of storage.

The new app is designed for 2G networks and "areas with limited network connectivity.
So far, it has been downloaded over 10,000 times and has a rating of 4.6 stars out of 5 on the app store.

Given the social network reaching saturation point in many western markets, the move to new territories is a natural progression.

Analysis

However, some data shows it may not be quite as simple as making a lighter version of the app to contend with the mired of devices and slower connection speeds. To succeed in these countries Facebook will also need to have local understanding.

Marco Veremis, CEO at Upstream, comments on the move: “For some time now, Facebook’s own figures have revealed that the social giant is reaching saturation point in the US and many Western markets. For example, of the estimated 353m people in North America there are currently 202m monthly users on Facebook already. Meaning that while there’s still room for growth, it’s nowhere near the exhilarating rate the company has enjoyed in its relatively short life to date. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the social network is turning its attention to emerging markets for its next billion users and these regions are already showing potential – with usage in Asia increasing 26% year on year from the second quarter of 2013 to 2014.

“However, with new markets come new challenges. Facebook is dealing with the issue of device diversity and connection speeds with the launch of its ‘Lite’ app, but to become truly ubiquitous the business will also have to be careful not to alienate new users by failing to cater to local nuance. According to research we commissioned from Ovum, polling people in Brazil, China, India, Nigeria and Vietnam, consumers from these markets praised local brands. 78% liked the fact they use local language and dialect and 76% because they use cultural references. As such, while Facebook is heading in the right direction in providing the right technology for emerging market consumers, it will have to be careful to provide the right content if it wants to become a truly global social network.”

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