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Businesses Can Speak To Facebook Messenger Lite Users From ‘Day One’

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Facebook Messenger head says stripped down version for Android might not have some functionality, but is still attractive for businesses

Facebook hopes to expand the use and reach of its messaging platform in the developing world with the launch of Messenger Lite, a stripped down version of the client designed for older smartphones running on low speed networks.

Messenger Lite promises to take up less than 10MB of storage (the actual size of the app is currently around 7MB).This means, things like voice and video calls are not possible, but the “core” functions such as text, images, video and links are.

The company told TechWeekEurope that although it hoped potential users would sign up for Facebook, it was not necessary to have a Facebook account to sign up.

Facebook Messenger Lite

data centre“We hope anyone with a low end Android device will enjoy this using this application,” said Stan Chudnovsky, who is responsible for Messenger.

“We don’t segregate in this way and you don’t need to use Messenger with a Facebook account. We just hope people will stay in touch. Our goal is to connect everyone on the planet but it’s unlikely they’ll use all our services.”

Over the top (OTT) messaging apps are popular because they circumvent SMS charges, especially useful when contacting a foreign number. However data networks are not as advanced in some countries and can be expensive.

There is no data crunching algorithm limiting bandwidth consumption, nor is the app zero rated like the Free Basics service Facebook offers. Instead, Messenger Lite is targeting those who want a better messaging experience, albeit on a limited handset.

“We’re not pitching it as an SMS application,” explained Chudnovsky. “We’re pitching it as a messaging application that can put you in touch with one billion person plus users.”

Feature choice

Users can communicate with businesses from day one, but some of the more advanced features such as chatbots will not be included – for now at least. Although users don’t need a Facebook account to sign up, an increased Messenger footprint will enhance the company’s ecommerce ambitions.

Facebook said it has been surprised at how enthusiastic small businesses had been about chatbots so far and adding more functionality, such as money transfers, to Messenger Lite would appear to be an obvious route to take.

“We have four million advertisers on [Facebook],” added Chudnovsky. “If you are a business and you use Facebook there are a bazillion ways to make your life easier.”

Future feature additions will be dictated by how the application is used. If Facebook sees that devices from 2010 are no longer being used, support will be dropped and the limit of 10MB could be increased to accommodate more advanced tools.

The app is live in Kenya, Tunisia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Venezuela, and Facebook told us there would be a “fast” wider rollout.

Facebook has added numerous features to the full version of Messenger, including group calls and in-store payments.

Messenger sits alongside WhatsApp in the Facebook stable, but plans to share data between the two services have attracted controversy. WhatsApp’s privacy policy also recently changed to allow businesses send messages.

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