Facebook has quietly launched a stripped-down version of its mobile app, aimed at emerging market users with low-end mobile devices.
The social media giant confirmed to CNBC on Monday that “Facebook Lite” was an official app. It 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.
The move feeds in to the Menlo Park, CA-based company’s plans to target the rapidly growing mobile user base in developing markets, and make the most of the slew of ultra-low cost mobile devices being launched in these markets.
India was the fastest-growing smartphone market in Asia-Pacific in the third quarter of 2014, according to the International Data Corporation.
There is expected to be 101.5 million mobile Facebook users in India this year, 62.6 million in Indonesia and 57.9 million in Brazil, data from eMarketer showed, providing a massive user base for the social media network to tap. Facebook also said last year that 80 percent of its 100 million African users access the network via their mobile devices.
Facebook has been struggling with a slowing user growth, and has been pushing its emerging market agenda. Last year, it revamped its app for Android — the operating with the biggest market share in developing markets. In 2013, along with other technology companies, Facebook co-founded internet.org, a project which gives people in developing countries free access to the Internet and a number of mobile services such as its own app and Google search.
With maturing user adoption in developed markets, Facebook Lite will help the social networking giant build a new audience, analysts said, but monetizing it will take longer.
“Facebook is well penetrated in Western markets, but if you look at the growth in the markets it is targeting, there’s real opportunity to grow its user base,” Jack Kent, senior mobile analyst at IHS, told CNBC by phone.
“Facebook’s strategy has always been about growing users then monetizing later. Facebook Lite will help build an audience and gather user data and serve advertising strategy in those markets later.”