Facebook has launched a stripped-down version of its messaging app called Messenger Lite, which is designed to work with slower internet speeds and basic Android smartphones in emerging markets, the social networking giant announced Monday.
Messenger Lite uses up less than 10 megabytes compared to around 156 megabytes for the full version of the app. Users of Messenger Lite can use core features such as basic messaging, sending and receiving photos, links and stickers. The new Lite app however will not have full access to other features such as bots that Facebook recently introduced.
Facebook's Messenger Lite is starting to roll out t to people in Kenya, Tunisia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Venezuela, with availability in more countries in the coming months.
It marks the U.S. social media giant's latest foray into developing markets where it is looking to connect the next billion users by improving internet access and online services. Last year, the company released Facebook Lite for Android users in emerging markets.
Google's Android mobile operating system is the dominant player in emerging markets over rival Apple's iOS, due to lower cost of the devices that run the software.
Facebook has also been testing drones that are able to "beam" internet to remote parts of the world. But its efforts in developing markets have not always been plain sailing. Facebook ran into headwinds in India with its Internet.org program. It offers a package called Free Basics which allows users in developing markets to access certain services on their mobile phones for free without data charges. Facebook, perhaps unsurprisingly, is one of the apps that can be accessed as part of this.
Critics called said Free Basics went against the principles of net neutrality – the idea that all traffic online should be treated equally. India then banned Free Basics in February.
Facebook Messenger Lite is a different approach to developing markets and the platform, which now has one billion users globally, has become key to Facebook's growth efforts. Earlier this year the company introduced chatbots on the platform - apps or pieces of software that users can interact with via speech or text. They are then able to respond providing information or even carrying out a task.
"Messenger Lite was built to give people a great Messenger experience, no matter what technology they use or have access to," Tom Mulcahy, engineering manager for Messenger Lite, wrote in a blog post on Monday.