What Facebook Lite Actually Is. Hint: It's Not Twitter Or FriendFeed.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009; 1:01 AM
So, the web pretty much exploded tonight over the appearance of something called "Facebook Lite," a new service that's apparently being beta tested by Facebook. But users who received the message that they were invited to test it out, were frustrated when the link didn't work. There's a reason for that: It was a mistake to roll the test out to most of these users tonight, Facebook has confirmed to us.
But, with the cat out of the bag, everyone is now rushing to reach some conclusions about what Facebook Lite actually is. Most of these assumptions revolve around Twitter and FriendFeed. The reasons for this should be obvious: First, Facebook and Twitter seem to have a nice rivalry going on to see who is the hottest social property. Second, Facebook just bought FriendFeed for $50 million, so it would seem possible that they want to develop a service just like that one. And third, the screenshot of Facebook Lite, which we found earlier, makes it look a lot like Twitter and FriendFeed.
But in reality, Facebook Lite has nothing to do with Twitter or FriendFeed ? at least, not right now. Instead, it was designed to be used in parts of the world where broadband speeds vary and can be expensive, we're being told by Facebook. Given that the initial testing of it has taken place in India over the past several days, this makes sense.
Think about how slow Facebook is to load at times on some broadband connections here in the U.S., and just imagine what that much be like on connections that are several times slower. And then also consider that all of Facebook's datacenters are here in the U.S. So for the data to get around the world, it creates an even longer natural load time. So Facebook is stripping the site back and allowing Facebook Lite to be a site where new users can quickly write on friend's walls, send messages and build their social network. The basics.
As we said, it's testing in India right now, but the plan is for Facebook Lite to hit places like Russia and China as well, we're hearing.
All that being said, it is entirely possible that the service could find its way to the rest of the world as an option for those who maybe don't want all the bells and whistles that Facebook provides, and instead just want speed. Facebook didn't have anything to say on that matter, and specifically not the U.S., but it seems reasonable. After all, MySpace has a "lite" version too.
But don't buy into the hype that we're already starting to hear that Facebook Lite is a "Twitter-killer" ? because that's not its intention at all right now.