Twitter goes Lite for developing markets

Twitter is looking at developing regions again as it struggles to find new users elsewhere, and it’s taking a page out of the playbooks of its rivals for inspiration. 

The San Francisco-based company today announced Twitter Lite, a stripped down web version of the company’s flagship service that works on slow networks (2G, to be precise).

“Twitter Lite offers a data friendly user experience,” said Maya Hari, ‎Managing Director Asia [email protected] & Board advisor in Data & Commerce at a media event in New Delhi. 

Twitter Lite, available through the mobile website, supports 42 languages (six of which are Indian). “It’s a great proud moment for us,” she said. The web app is now available in India, and will soon be launched in Indonesia and other developing regions. 

The company has partnered with Vodafone, one of the biggest telecom giants worldwide, for pushing Twitter Lite, said Arvinder Gujral, Sr. Director Sr. Director Business Development – Asia Pacific. Vodafone is the “first global” partner, Gujral said, adding the company is also working with content partners.

Executives confirmed to Mashable that Twitter Lite is operator-agnostic, and works for subscribers who are on non-Vodafone network as well. In an interview with us, Gujral said Vodafone will help create “custom curated” feed of content, and raise awareness among users. Think of IPL content for its subscribers in India, for instance. But neither of these partners will ever force tweets and content to users’ feeds, he added. 

Twitter says it worked with Google on “progressive web app” to create the lighter mobile version of its service. Among other things, Twitter Lite saves all the recent tweets, and let users access them even when they are offline. 

Users will also see a data-saving option when on the mobile website. The feature compresses the media content by up to 70 percent. Cache of tweets is enabled by default, however data-saving is something users will have to opt for manually. 

Even though Twitter Lite is designed to solve a problem that people in developing markets face, Gujral told us, it will work for users worldwide. “If you’re in the United States, you too can use this service,” he added. 

The move could help Twitter find users who’re either unaware of the service, or can’t access it because of network constraints, analysts said, praising Twitter for the move. 

“India is a critical market for Silicon Valley companies who’re increasingly finding it difficult to find new users in the west,” said Prasanto K Roy, VP and Head of Internet, Mobile and E-commerce Council at Nasscom in a phone conversation with Mashable

For these companies, Roy said, they see potential billion users in developing markets. “With Chinese regimes largely restricting US-based companies, India becomes ever so crucial,” he added. 

Tapping users on slow networks could prove beneficial, analysts said. There are about one billion mobile subscribers in India, of which more than 900 million subscribers use 2G connection to get online, Tarun Pathak, senior analyst at Counterpoint told Mashable.

Twitter’s move comes months after Google, Facebook, and Microsoft introduced similar stripped-down versions of their apps to cater users on slow internet. Facebook went as far as creating “2G Tuesdays” at the company to make its employees find ways to work on slow internet. 

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