Overnight, last night, Facebook rolled out its long-awaited Facebook Lite
— a new, faster, stripped-down version of the social networking site.
Open at first only to users in the US and India, Facebook Lite is now
available to all English-language users.
First reactions to Facebook Lite seem to be mostly positive, albeit
with the inevitable comparisons to Twitter’s lean message stream. You
may find some features that you use regularly are missing from the Lite
version of Facebook, but the company says that the various versions of
its website are intended to be used side by side — you might use
regular Facebook on a home computer, the mobile or touch-screen
versions on the road, and Facebook Lite where your Internet connection
is iffy or when your time is limited.
If you haven’t had a chance to check out Facebook Lite yet, here are a couple of quick screenshots to show you the difference:
This is a home page as it appears in the original, regular version of Facebook:
This image shows the new version of the same home page, as it appears on Facebook Lite:
So, what’s the point of Facebook Lite?
According to statements from Facebook, one of the main motivations
behind the launch of Facebook Lite was to make it easier for new people
to use the network, to sign up and login for the first time and
immediately be able to start making connections.
Given the fact that Facebook has been growing like the proverbial
weed — even though its use is not exactly intuitive, and it’s nearly
impossible to explain the fine points of using it effectively — you’ve
got to figure that Facebook Lite could lead to an even faster
expansion. Especially in “international” users, for whom highspeed,
wide-bandwidth Internet access is less readily available that it is
in, for example, urban parts of North America.
"Full meal deal" or "diet plate"? Your choice!
There is no question that Facebook, evolving as it did over time in
a rather piecemeal fashion, has become too cluttered and complicated.
We know, for example, how difficult it can be for small nonprofits,
without a dedicated Facebook expert on staff, to figure out how to make
best use of the social network — whether they should set up a Cause or
a Page or a Group or a Profile, how to handle the complex privacy
settings, which applications work in what parts of the site, and on and
But that’s the down side of trying to serve a large and diverse
community of users, isn't it? Trying to balance the demand for new features and
functionality with the basic requirements of access and usability is
always a tricky business.
Over at MySpace,
for example, users have long had the ability to customize their
profiles, and to embed rich media. It makes the network very attractive
to musicians and artists, and their fans, who can put a personal stamp
on it and share their enthusiasms in multimedia. But that flexibility
also meant that MySpace profiles became increasingly bloated, and have
been famous for loading painfully slowly. So — back in mid-April, and
without nearly the hype that’s attending the launch of Facebook Lite —
MySpace added a nav bar button to let users choose between the regular
page view and a faster-loading Lite version.
Time and bandwidth are two
of the most precious commodities we’ve got these days — and both are in
increasingly short supply. It’s no surprise that Facebook has also chosen to offer its users
yet another way to experience the social network. We're looking at, basically, an easier way for more people to get on Facebook and "get up to speed" with it, in several meanings of the phrase.
What do you think of Facebook Lite?
If you've had a chance to try Facebook Lite, how do you like it so far? Do you think the availability of a Lite version might change the way your organization uses Facebook?