Facebook Launches Stripped-Down 'Messenger Lite'

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Facebook today unveiled Messenger Lite, a basic version of its chat app that consumes less data and works across all network conditions.

Aimed at users in Africa, Asia, and South America, the lightweight app is built for older Android devices with diminished disk and memory space, which run on lower bandwidth connections.

"We are committed to making Messenger the best and most reliable way to communicate in the world for everyone," David Marcus, head of Facebook messaging programs, said in an announcement.

More than a billion people around the world access Facebook Messenger, but it can hard for some in underdeveloped areas to find a reliable connection. Messenger Lite will initially roll out in five countries: Kenya, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, and Venezuela, though Marcus said other regions will get it "after our initial launch phase."

Messenger Lite comes more than a year after the social network launched its Facebook Lite Android app in Asia, Latin America, Africa, and Europe. The app is less than 1MB, so it installs and loads quickly.

Neither app provides the functionality of their more full-featured counterparts, but the Lite versions let you check the News Feed, share updates and photos, get notifications, and chat with friends and family.

The app is Facebook's latest effort to make its service more accessible to those in emerging markets. The company is experimenting with using drones, satellites, and lasers to spread Internet access to unconnected areas of the world.

It also continues to roll out Free Basics, which provides free access to basic Web services (including Facebook, of course). That exclusivity, however, has sparked backlash from net neutrality advocates, prompting some adjustments from Facebook.

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