Facebook-owned Instagram said Wednesday it’s rolling out a version of the social media app in more than 170 countries that will make it easier for users in rural and remote areas to browse the platform on Android phones.
Called Instagram Lite, the app uses “minimal” data and takes up less storage space compared with the regular Instagram app. Instagram Lite requires 2 megabytes to download on Android compared with the roughly 30 megabytes needed to download the full version of the app.
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The launch of Instagram Lite shows that Facebook is ramping up its efforts to attract more users in developing countries where people have weaker internet connections or can’t afford the latest smartphones. Facebook has roughly 2.8 billion users who log into the site monthly and most are from outside the US. The rollout of Instagram Lite could also help bridge the digital divide because the app works in areas where access to data is limited.
“We wanted the Instagram experience to remain fast, high-quality, and reliable, irrespective of the device, platform, and network people are on,” Tzach Hadar, director of product Management at Facebook Tel Aviv office, said in a blog post.
Instagram Lite will be available in Egypt, Myanmar, Venezuela, Zimbabwe and other countries.
As Instagram pushes further into emerging markets, the company could also face more challenges moderating offensive content such as hate speech. Nicholas Brown, a product manager for Instagram Lite, said during a press call the social network has been doing a better job of proactively flagging hate speech before a user reports that type of content. From October to December, Instagram took action on 6.6 million pieces of content for hate speech and more than 95% was found before users reported it to the company.
Developed by Facebook employees in New York and Tel Aviv, Instagram Lite was being tested in India last year after the company shuttered an older version of the app released in 2018. The team that developed Instagram Lite focused on video and messaging and took out features that used a lot of data such as animations and augmented reality filters that can transform your face into different characters. Instagram also had to account for cultural differences, including the type of languages people spoke in a particular country and how familiar they were with using technology, Brown said.
Instagram said it would roll out Instagram Lite globally soon. The company didn’t provide a timeline for when Instagram Lite would be available on Apple phones, but Android devices are more widely uses in developing countries.