In recent years, several large, mature technology companies, such as Google, Uber, Spotify and Twitter, have been wooing the "next billion users" – people who go online with mobile devices for the first time. instead of desktops. Attracting this new audience requires the optimization of services and software optimized for the prevailing conditions in developing markets, such as: These include unreliable connectivity, slow Internet speeds, and the proliferation of mobile devices.
Companies began to develop a "Lite" version of their devices apps that can run on most cell phones and do not consume much storage space on the device (less than 1
Facebook is proud to have been one of the first to launch a lite app in 2015. When TNW met The team responsible for developing and improving the app told us how they managed to import almost all features from the main app while keeping their size below two megabytes.
At first, as the team The development of the first version of Facebook Lite was about providing users with device, network and data restrictions with a very simple version of Facebook. In terms of functionality, the app was limited, and the interface looked like a rudimentary mobile site.
Tzach Hadar, Head of Product Management for Facebook Lite, said the first version builds on the core experience of Facebook with the aim of preventing users from using the social network:
The basic requirement [of Facebook Lite] was not to leave anyone behind. We have a very good high-end app, but some people can not use it or not enough. So we came up with the idea of developing an app that works for everyone. We wanted the app to be small and definitely fast. So we booted all the features that were not needed.
The term "annual class scale" was defined by Facebook to compare the hardware specifications of a telephone with those of a high-end telephone of a particular year. According to his definition, a phone released this year may also have a 2017 year class if its specifications resemble a flagship device of that year.
Facebook said, a majority of users in developing countries use vintage phones 2013 or older. The Lite team wanted to respond to this audience.
Around 2017 the team changed its approach to the Lite app as it wanted to give users an "uncompromising experience" without reducing the size. This meant that users should get almost the same features as the main app. Over the years, features such as live video, reactions, stories, and the marketplace have been introduced.
Hadar mentions in terms of core features that the Lite app now comes much closer to the main app. However, if you're using a Lite app, you might not have some features, such as: B. Stickers in stories and datings.
In the same year, Jio, India's leading network provider, launched a smartphone called JioPhone on the KaiOS market. In 2018, Facebook delivered an app for this platform based on the architecture of the Lite app.
To keep the app as small as possible, Facebook built a very thin client – the app that resides on your device – and moved all business logic to its servers. This meant that the client had some basic UI elements on the phone and other content was not loaded until users opened the app.
Dekel Naar, chief engineer of the Facebook Lite team, said it was important to keep the app size small as it leads to more installations. The company found that all five bytes saved in the app managed to attract and retain a user.
Before Facebook Lite existed, the Facebook app was uninstalled on the phone for space reasons, even if it was desired to use it.
To reduce the app size and control it while the new features are added, engineers use a couple of bots internally developed with BuildBot and SizeBot. While Buildbot provides information about the size difference between different internal versions of the app, SizeBot notifies an encoder of how much size a feature adds when it is added to the app. This allows product managers to remove features that are not high on the list of priorities.
Naar's team often proactively attacks projects to manage the size of the app. The team built a special tool called Redex, which serves as an optimizer for Android files. Facebook used it with another open source optimization tool called ProGuard to reduce the size of the app by 40 percent and improve runtime performance by 25 percent. After the success of this project, it even used this tool with its other apps.
Facebook Lite also uses the Download on Demand approach to retrieve resources such as sounds and animations instead of adding them to the installation package.
Another project the Lite team took up was called the Lean Crash Report. The goal was to extract debugging information from the APK (Application Package) – the file that installed an app on Android phones. The team discovered that debugging reports accounted for nearly 15 percent of the APK size. And that's a lot of room when you create a Lite app.
Naar and his team removed the debugging code from the package and stored it on the company's servers. As a result, the company was able to reduce the size of the app by 11 percent.
Thanks to these improvements, the Facebook Lite app is almost 40 times smaller than the main app.
The Numbers, Reaches, and The Future
Although Facebook Lite is a cool product, it's hard to understand how many people use it. According to Facebook, more than 200 million people use the app every month in 2017. Since then a lot has changed.
App analytics company SensorTower announced to TNW that Facebook Lite was downloaded 1 billion times between 2015 and 2019 The app was downloaded 2.5 billion times over the same period . This year Lite was downloaded 255.1 million times, compared to 337.5 million downloads of the main app.
The analytics company also suggests that the app was downloaded most frequently by Indians, followed by Indonesia and Brazil. The challenge for the Lite team is to spread its user base in sub-Saharan Africa in addition to the aforementioned countries.
While the company has preloaded the main app on many phones in the past, there is currently no partnership to load the Lite app on all low to medium range phones on the market today . If any, the social networking mobile site will prompt you to invite visitors to download the Lite app.
Facebook Lite is perfect for many groups of users, including users of high-end phones. It's great to extend the battery life while traveling and limit yourself to the core functions of the social network without getting yourself down too much. Facebook is also testing an iOS version in limited markets.
These lite apps may have a smaller user base than the major versions. However, as more and more people from countries such as India and Brazil connect to the Internet for the first time, they prefer lite apps. Mainly because they are better than mobile websites or Progressive Web Apps (PWA) and many features of the main app are included in a smaller package.