Today (Tuesday), Facebook announced that it will begin to test out Instagram Lite, a new and lighter version of its photo-centric social media platform, Instagram. This marks the second lite version developed by Facebook’s Israeli R&D center.
Reducing the size and transferring the load onto the server’s side
The new app requires less than 2 megabytes, compared to Instagram’s full app version that runs on 32 megabytes, with the difference not just limited to its memory size but with its real-time interface as well (we’ll get to that shortly).
You’ll find the lite version has a few familiar features, such as your photo and video feed, pic upload, story, and IGTV videos. However, not all of your favorite features made the migration, with iconic features such as AR filters, new shopping features, and Reels - Instagram’s TikTok imitation.
Facebook’s initial target market is developing countries, where users still rely on slow-loading 2G and 3G networks, which can’t really support apps like Instagram. Facebook notes that among others, the target is mainly to increase usage in major markets like India, Brazil, Indonesia, Turkey, Egypt, and the Philippines. Nevertheless, even in countries with more reliable internet connection, the lite version serves users with faster-operating speeds, low memory usage, and a minimalist interface.
Anyway, the South East Asia region will be the first to enjoy the new app, with North and South America following soon after. However, Facebook hasn’t provided a clear time schedule for launch in different markets.
“We don’t fear cannibalism, we want to provide a personalized experience for all”
The app in its entirety was developed in Facebook’s Israel-based R&D center. While talking to the press, Instagram Lite’s development team lead Gal Zellermayer explained that other than reducing the app’s size, most of the app operating code has been transferred from your device onto the servers. Zellermayer tells that due to the transfer, end-users gain so much more processing and RAM power, instead of the previously battery life-draining work your device has to go through.
Does this mean that every Instagram Lite user “costs more” because Facebook must invest more resources in them? According to Director of Product Management at Facebook Tzach Hadar, the answer is “probably yes”. Even though Hadar also notes that he’s not sure and thinks that eventually with improved server processing capabilities the “price” will go down.
You’re not afraid that a lite app will create a sort of cannibalism?
Hadar: “One of the main things in the lite world is choice. From our perspective, we identify a huge population of potential users with different needs. We don’t fear cannibalism, we want to provide a personalized experience for all, with the only difference being the users in the center.”
When Facebook launched its lite version, the company explained that one of the biggest challenges was reducing the size of photos. But how do you do it when the whole concept of the app is videos and pictures? Zellermayer explains that Instagram Lite’s architecture shoves most of the memory load onto the servers’ side, enabling the development team to use more complicated heuristics and Machine-Learning to continuously examine how important a certain app “resource” is for users, and how often they’ll need it.
Zellermayer adds that because the development team didn’t have access to the servers, the team instead ran the trial on low RAM memory Android phones, with older operating versions, and limited storage, in order to receive quick “user” feedback. This, of course, was accompanied by a trove of beta testers for the app.