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article imageFacebook '2G Tuesdays' let employees taste the Indian Internet

By James Walker     Oct 27, 2015 in Internet
Facebook is embarking on a new initiative that will see its employees' Internet connections throttled to 2G speeds on Tuesdays, giving them a better sense of how the site is used in developing markets like India.
The modern fibre-optic cables used to connect the majority of Western cities are capable of loading sites like Facebook in mere seconds. Even a slow rural connection of less than 5Mbps should load all the important content in 10-15 seconds, even if it may take a while for the images and videos to appear.
This isn't the case in every region of the world. In areas like India and other central-Asian markets, most people view Facebook on a mobile phone that has a data connection capable of only 2G speeds. Loading the desktop version of Facebook could take several minutes.
Because these developing nations are vital to Facebook's growth, the company is taking this slow Internet issue seriously. Its engineers have developed new technologies designed to intelligently optimise its app to suit the connection speed it is working on. A dedicated version, Facebook Lite, removes all the bloat of the full app so there is less to load.
The company is determined to take it further though, opening as much of its network as possible to everybody regardless of Internet speed. To give its engineers an idea of the networks they are developing for, the company is deploying a new initiative known as "2G Tuesdays" to all its employees.
Business Insider reports that a prompt shown to all Facebook workers on Tuesday morning will let them use a simulated 2G data connection on their phone for an hour. It is anticipated most people will opt-in to the idea which is supposed to help close the "empathy gap" between Facebook's plush Silicon Valley offices and the developing markets that are only just discovering technologies accepted for granted in the U.S. over ten years ago.
Engineering director Tom Alison told Business Insider: "For that next hour, their experience on Facebook will be very much like the experience that millions of people around the world have on Facebook on a 2G connection. They're going to see the places that we need to improve our product, but they're also going to see the places where we have made a lot of progress."
He added: "You really experience your own Facebook in a much different way on 2G. It's really a visceral feeling when you see your own content on this type of connection."
Alison said that his first experience of using Facebook on 2G "definitely tested my patience" as it "felt like parts of the product were just broken." Part of the problem of slow connections is that large portions of app interfaces often appear completely empty while content such as high-resolution images is downloaded to fill them.
In the past, Facebook has sent employees on field trips to places like India and Kenya where the population relies on 2G connections. By making a 2G link accessible to all its employees, the company hopes they will glean a better sense of the work that needs to be done to keep optimising the Facebook app and website so it functions reliably on the exceedingly limited Internet speeds used by millions worldwide.
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