October 3, 2016: Facebook is seeking to fill in some of the gaps in the reach of its messaging app empire,Â announcing today a new standalone version of its Messenger app, Messenger Lite, specifically designed for older Android devices with limited storageÂ and forÂ slower, data-constrained Internet connections.
Idea being that not everyone in the world has the premium hardware and superfast data connectivity that its full-fatÂ messaging product assumes.
â€œWith Messenger Lite, people are able to quickly and easily send text, photos and links to anyone using Messenger or Messenger Lite,â€ writes Facebook introducing the new app.
Or of course they could just use SMS.
The move follows Facebook launching a stripped down version of its mainÂ Android appÂ for users in emerging markets last year. That app,Â called Facebook Lite,Â eschews data-intensive contentÂ like video and location-powered features likeÂ Nearby Friends to offer a more basic feature set and low res imageryÂ in anÂ app thatâ€™sÂ less than 1MB in size.
Earlier this year Facebook revealed usage of thisÂ no-frills Facebook app had ballooned toÂ 100 million monthly activesÂ just nine months after launch, confirming it as itâ€™s fastest growing app at that point â€” a growth trickÂ itâ€™s clearly hoping to repeat now with Messenger Lite.
Albeit Messenger Lite is not soÂ modest in size:Â Facebook says the new stripped down Messenger is aroundÂ 10MB. Although Android hardware continues to improve, even at the affordability focused end of the pipe.
In terms of features, Messenger Lite supports what Facebook dubs â€œcore experiencesâ€ â€” namely: â€œmessaging, sending and receiving photosÂ andÂ links, and receiving stickersâ€. Yes, stickers arenâ€™t a nice-to-have in the hyper competitive world of mobile messaging.
Facebook says Messenger Lite for Android is starting to roll out,Â initiallyÂ to Kenya, Tunisia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Venezuela â€” withÂ other countries slated to be added in the â€œcoming monthsâ€.
Last year rival messaging app Line also launched a stripped down Android app aiming to winÂ users in a swathe of emerging markets, called Line Lite. So if Facebook doesnâ€™t grab these users, another messaging player surelyÂ will.
Facebook hasÂ also previouslyÂ launched Facebook Zero, a text-only version of its website that wasÂ subsidized by carriersÂ â€” anotherÂ on-boarding strategy for users in emerging markets.
But one of itsÂ most aggressive strategies for growing usage of its mobile messaging empire,Â and thusÂ also getting its hands on usersâ€™ phone numbers, isÂ shuttering access toÂ messages within itsÂ mobile app â€” thereby forcing usersÂ to download Messenger if they wish to continue their conversations. (Itâ€™s even been excising messages from the mobile web version of its website.)
This user-hostile strategy has nonetheless inflated Messenger usage. But then if you force people to download an app in order to read messages from friends you are doing the equivalent of twisting their arm behind their back.
Weâ€™ve asked Facebook whether it will be removing access to messages from its web app for users in the markets where itâ€™s launching the new Messenger Lite for Android and will update this post with any response. It seems prudent to expect this to happen though, assuming it hasnâ€™t already done so.
Facebookâ€™s aggression with Messenger looks especiallyÂ gratuitousÂ when you consider itÂ also owns mobile messaging giant WhatsApp. So it has not one but two 1BN+ mobile messaging platforms under its control and command.
But hey, if youâ€™re in the user data-mining ad profiling business then sucking up as much personal dataÂ as possible is the name of the game.
Also not surprising: Facebook-owned WhatsApp recently announced it wouldÂ startÂ sharing user data with its parent companyÂ for ad targeting purposes, in a bid to triangulate yet more information on users of the two services.
So you could say: resistance is futile. Although of courseÂ other messaging appsÂ andÂ platforms are available.