Facebook is beginning the roll out of Instagram Lite – a lighter, faster product designed for low-speed internet connections and lower-end smartphones – in 170 countries this week, including Israel, with plans for a global launch in the near future.
Like Facebook Lite over five years ago, Instagram Lite was developed by a team of engineers, designers, and product managers among hundreds of employees at Facebook’s R&D hub in Tel Aviv, the largest such center outside the US. The work was done in collaboration with a New York-based team including Instagram engineering, product, design, and research.
Instagram Lite weighs less than 2MB, allowing for quick installation and load time, and low storage consumption. It will offer the core features of the app including the feed, stories, filters, direct messaging, and some IGTV capabilities. Instagram Lite will allow for the Instagram experience to remain fast and reliable irrespective of the device, platform, and network, the company says.
To do this, much of the code actually runs on Facebook’s servers rather than the users’ devices to save on space and processing (like Facebook Lite).
The target audience for the app is also the same as for Facebook Lite: hundreds of millions of mobile users in emerging markets across Asia, Africa, the Mideast, and South America with low spec phones and internet connectivity that does not go above 2G/3G. According to the team’s research, over 50 percent of mobile users in sub-Saharan Africa are on 2G networks, as are 45 percent in India and 34 percent in the Mideast.
Instagram Lite will only be available on Android for now since it is the operating system of choice in many emerging market countries and supports low-Ram devices.
The team started piloting Instagram Lite in September with Android users in Southeast Asia and then in northern Africa and South America before a general rollout. There was a strong focus on what users valued most, namely video and messaging, which people in rural communities and more remote areas use more actively than their urban counterparts, according to the announcement.
A number of features had to be adapted to keep performance reliable – like the cube transitions between Stories and the AR filters people can apply onto faces. Stories in the bar appear in pulses rather than all at once, and the scrolling function and picture size also had to be reduced. Key features like GIFs and stickers remain.
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The team also got rid of certain icons that didn’t resonate with new digital users – a trash can icon did didn’t take as a symbol for getting rid of something, but an “X” rang clear.
A popular request has been a “dark mode” for the app, for people who live in communal areas and need privacy. Dark mode is also said to save on battery. The feature became available on Facebook Lite in 2020.
“No matter where they are, people want to be entertained and inspired by those that they love,” says Michelle Lourie, product manager of Instagram Lite, in a statement. “It’s difficult to do that on Instagram with an entry-level phone that has storage constraints.”
Lourie previously indicated that the new app will offer Instagram to millions who are not able to use it today due to slow connections, limited and expensive data packages, and low storage capabilities on low-spec devices. Just as Facebook Lite became the only Facebook experience for millions.
“Our teams build these lightweight versions of our apps for people with low connectivity or limited data plans, because our basic premise is to leave no one behind,” adds Tzach Hadar, director of product management at Facebook Tel Aviv, which is one of the largest strategic engineering hubs for Facebook globally. “We wanted the Instagram experience to remain fast, high-quality, and reliable, irrespective of the device, platform, and network people are on.”