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article imageFacebook unveils 'Messenger Lite' as alternative to bloated app

By James Walker     Oct 3, 2016 in Technology
Facebook's rapid expansion of its standalone Messenger app with new features and capabilities has threatened to leave some users behind. Today, the company addressed the app's bloated state with the launch of Messenger Lite, a scaled-down alternative.
Facebook introduced Messenger Lite this morning. It describes the app as a "slimmed down" version of Messenger that condenses the service's core features into a compact download. It's less intensive on slow internet speeds and sluggish low-end smartphones than the core Messenger app. The latter's extensive feature set has caused it to steadily expand in size and scope over the years.
Messenger Lite is designed to appeal to users in emerging markets. Typically, these customers have old or basic Android phones, slow internet speeds and unreliable mobile connections. The full Messenger experience can be difficult to use in these conditions. It slows phones down, wastes network bandwidth and includes features that not all users want.
The new app has a subset of the main client's functionality. Users can send messages, photos and links and exchange stickers from Messenger's built-in sticker store. There's no voice calling, video transfer, payments or bot interactions to increase the app's file size. It's just a messaging app, as Messenger itself was a few years ago.
Facebook has reversed the app's colour scheme to signify a user is installing Messenger Lite, rather than the fully-fledged Messenger. Messenger Lite and Messenger share the same logo but Lite uses blue-on-white instead of white-on-blue. The entire app is less than 10MB to install and can start up more quickly than the regular version, alleviating the burden on low-end Android devices.
"More than 1 billion people around the world use Messenger every month from a range of mobile devices on networks of various speeds and reliability," said Facebook. "With Messenger Lite, more people can stay in contact, regardless of network conditions or storage limitations on their Android devices. Messenger Lite was built to give people a great Messenger experience, no matter what technology they use or have access to."
The existence of Messenger Lite appears to be an admission by Facebook that Messenger is coming to outgrow its core concept. In the past year, it has developed features including a built-in digital assistant, support for mobile payments and integrated chatbots. The service is now far beyond the simple chat application it started out as.
While most users receive the changes positively, they can limit the app's usefulness to audiences with less-than-average connectivity. Facebook has already released a scaled-back version of its core social network. Now it is doing the same for Messenger.
Facebook Messenger Lite will begin to roll-out today to Android users in Kenya, Tunisia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Venezuela. Facebook said it will expand to more as-yet unannounced countries "in the coming months." There's no mention of whether an iOS version is on the way.
More about Facebook, Messenger, facebook messenger, messenger lite, Smartphones
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