Facebook has just launched a new version of the site, called Lite, to give users a simplified, faster-loading experience than the traditional www.facebook.com. The company has said it’s intended to help new users, especially people with with poor internet connections, have a better experience than they have had so far. The app is only live in the US and India, according to Facebook developer Blake Ross, but a worldwide rollout doesn’t seem too far away.
As anyone who has tried to access Facebook on a slow connection already knows, features like photos can take forever to load, or even not load at all.
But more generally, the design aesthetic of Lite is appealing. The news feed includes a simple top toolbar, just items from your friends and a few obvious buttons for posting updates or media. The profile page is similarly bare. However, there’s no bottom toolbar for any third-party apps. There are currently only a few crucial in-house apps available. Facebook’s own Photo and Video apps are located within the profile page, while Events is available in the top toolbar.
Lite became available as a beta test last month. As a Facebook spokesperson described it to us, then:
Similar to the Facebook experience you get on your mobile phones, Facebook “Lite” is a fast-loading, simplified version of Facebook that enables people to make comments, accept Friend requests, write on people’s Walls, and look at photos and Status updates. We are currently testing Facebook Lite in countries where we are seeing lots of new users coming to Facebook for the first time and are looking to start off with a more simple experience.
Facebook is currently seeing massive growth around the world. The company says some 70 percent of its more than 250 million users are from outside the US. Countries in Southeast Asia and Europe are seeing especially notable growth. Of those, some 65 million are already accessing the site on their phone.
Facebook’s previous logic for serving international users makes sense. But, of course, you can access the site from anywhere in the world now. So if you’re on a fast internet connection somewhere — and you just like a minimalistic feel for your web services — well, you can use it, too. That is what some US users are planning to do. Indeed, the reaction from US users has prompted Facebook to release it intentionally for US users, something it hadn’t previously planned on doing.
I’m asking Facebook what the long-term plan is for Lite. If this version of the site becomes significantly popular, third-party developers are likely to wonder how they can start accessing users through it.