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Facebook Lite app launched to tap emerging markets

Facebook has launched a stripped-down version of its app aimed at the huge potential user base in emerging markets.

The social media giant confirmed to CNBC that it was testing the Android app in January, and was now rolling it out across countries in Asia, followed by parts of Latin America, Africa and Europe.

Facebook Lite takes less than 1 megabyte of storage space on a phone -- substantially less than the standard app, which uses up around 25MB of storage.

Facebook Lite screenshot

The new app is designed to load quickly in areas with slow mobile internet connection.

"In many areas, networks can be slow and not able to support all the functionality found in Facebook for Android. Facebook Lite was built for these situations, giving people a reliable Facebook experience when bandwidth is at a minimum," Vijay Shankar, product manager for Facebook Lite, wrote in a blog post.

Users will be able to do simple tasks such as post status updates and pictures, get notifications and scroll through their newsfeed. Viewing video will not be possible, however, as it requires too much data.

The move comes amid a continued push by Facebook into the emerging markets, highlighted by its Internet.org project, which gives users in certain countries access to some mobile services for free.

The mobile user base in emerging markets is growing fast, particularly in the smartphone space where a number of low-cost devices have been launched.

Almost 80 percent of smartphone subscriptions added between 2015 and 2020 will be from Asia Pacific, the Middle East and Africa, according to Ericsson.

Facebook already has a high user base in some emerging markets – Indonesia, for instance, is currently the third-largest market for mobile Facebook users worldwide.

Meanwhile, by the end of 2016 India is expected to surpass the U.S. as having the largest population of mobile phone Facebook users, according to research by eMarketer.