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No Apps on Facebook Lite and Mobile – Hit or Miss?

We had earlier posted how Facebook Lite is taking Facebook closer to Twitter. This post talks about the another most striking feature of Facebook Lite – the absence of applications (like quizzes and games like FarmVille).

While it certainly makes the page look clean and less cluttered, and significantly reduces the page-weight (hence making it ‘Lite’), this is a significant change in user-experience over Facebook.

Applications like quizzes and games have been a key differentiator for Facebook over other social networks (read Orkut) and were among the prime reasons for its stupendous rise in popularity across the world. Official Facebook worldwide statistics put the number of active applications on Facebook at 350,000; and every month more than 70% of Facebook users engage with platform applications. This application platform has attracted more than one million developers and entrepreneurs over 180 countries. It would be interesting to see how these 1 million developers of Facebook applications react to Facebook Lite without applications.

When it comes to Facebook usage in India, a quick look at the Indian traffic data for Facebook applications onVizisense shows that different applications residing on Facebook apps server are accessed by 3.92 million Indian unique users per month, which is a sizable chunk (45.52%) of the 8.63 million unique users per month base of Facebook in India. Also it is a known fact that Facebook has seen more traction and early adoption among the more evolved internet users in India. It has significantly higher following among the high-income and more-educated users who are expected to have access to high speed internet connections; and also are more evolved and regular internet users to understand and appreciate these Facebook applications. Facebook usage among income-group of more than Rs. 15 lakhs is 1.32 times national average, and that among PhD/Doctorate is 1.19 times the national average. Facebook has been a welcome substitute for people who had got bored of scrapping business on Orkut and also irritated by the spamming, privacy concerns and fake profiles over it. Check the screen-shot of Vizisense data below.

Facebook Demography in India
Facebook Demography in India

This user-experience over Facebook Lite (with no applications) will not be a new thing for users. Those who access Facebook over its mobile site (m.facebook.com) get to see status updates, photos, external links, events from friends, but no applications. Facebook Lite will be extending this user-experience over web, of course with a much cleaner and easier page-design.

Official Facebook statistics say that Facebook Mobile has over 65 million active users worldwide and that these mobile users are 50% more active than those over web. Assuming that more activity means more page-views, in India however numbers seems to be telling a different story.

Unique Users/month Page Views/month Page-views per user per month
Facebook India (overall) 8.63 million 1003 million 116.22
Facebook Mobile India 35.9 thousand 311 thousand 8.66
Source: Vizisense http://vizisense.com/sites/facebook.com/subDomains; data for month of Sept. ’09.

Above table clearly shows that Facebook usage over mobile is yet to pick up in India and engagement levels are dismally small as compared to overall Facebook; and my guess is that absence of applications is one of the key reasons for this.

In light of this data, absence of applications over Facebook Lite page does not seem to be the best step forward for Facebook in India, one of the only 2 countries (other being US) where Facebook is testing its Facebook Lite page. Certainly applications from external developers/websites would be adding latency to the Facebook page and that may be the reason why they are not on Facebook Lite. But there seems to be more to this move than what is meeting the eyes; and better and faster service to users with slower internet connections certainly does not look like the only end-objective of Facebook Lite.

Having said that, only time will tell if this new lighter Facebook Lite page which downloads quickly on slower internet connections – but with no applications – will change the above data and demographics for Facebook in India. If Facebook Lite succeeds, it would be interesting to see whom does it dethrone – Orkut or Twitter 🙂

Note: Vizisense is a product of Komli – an online ad network who manage Facebook advertising inventory in India.

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