Over the last two days, beyond misplaced next generation iPhones, Apple earnings, and the Facebook f8 conference, a rather minor blip on the tech radar has been the announcement that Facebook has shut down its Lite Version. It almost seems silly to link to that given that it just redirects back to the main Facebook page. For those who never used it (which is understandable given that it wasn’t marketed all that well), this was a stripped-down version of Facebook more suited for those with limited bandwidth connections. All told, the version got a mere seven months of active service before being killed, which I think was only bested by US hardware store chain, Home Depot, killing off a Spanish version of their site four months after launch. Why would a company put so much effort in to a piece of their product line to then kill it off in its infancy? A number of pundits have weighed in on this.
Bill Ray at The Register wrote:
The problem with cutting the fluff from Facebook is that it’s the fluff that people want. Social networking is all very well, but for most users it’s about accumulating contacts who can be impressed by your FarmVille score or the size of your castle.
Liz Gannes hit on a more important element:
One reason not to like Lite? It showed limited advertising and was disconnected from features like Facebook pages and applications. Ad Age called it “a black hole for brands.” Not a good idea to irritate the people who pay the bills.
This was also echoed by a quote in a BBC article:
“In some ways the Lite version was like using ad block [a plugin to strip ads out of websites] on their own site – it stripped the site down to the very basics,” said Mike Melanson of ReadWriteWeb.
But as much as I don’t like linking to TechCrunch articles are they don’t like linking out, I think that MG Siegler wrote some of the best points on the issue:
And that’s why the news today that Facebook has killed off the lite version of its site is disappointing — not because it was great, but because it was better…
…Facebook Lite was not perfect, but I suspect that the main problem with the site was that Facebook made it hard to find. Unless you enabled a toolbar (yes, another damn toolbar) along the top of the site to easily switch back and forth, it was nearly impossible to figure out how to do so.
Booker vs. Tweeter
I think that the real question in all of this is whether you are more of a Facebook person or more of a Twitter person. Me personally, my first introduction to Twitter was some loud, obnoxious moron in a bar in San Francisco trying to impress some girl by telling all about how amazing Twitter was back in 2007. Needless to say, I got in to Facebook more. But, as time went on, Facebook started bugging the crap out of me. They would add and take away features at random and reorder the page in ways that drove me nuts. Bit by bit, I’ve turned towards Twitter now as my chosen social media weapon after blogging. Facebook just serves as a tie-in to my Twitter where my updates can be echoed.
This is why the Lite version was so good for Facebook and as Siegler noted, it’s why it had to go. It really was a superior Facebook. In terms of bandwidth access it was better and it’s really a shame that they didn’t market and deploy it properly to African users as people here are all over Facebook and it’s manly to socialize or promote pages and groups. I don’t see tons of interaction with applications because de facto, they don’t load well with the high latency you typically have. I mean, updating my
bragging page Where I’ve Been page is insanely painful and I can only do it late at night when the bandwidth creeps back up a notch.
Truth in Mobile
As much as I think that mobile is an over-hyped bubble, it appears to all come back to the mobile versions of both Facebook and Twitter. That is where both companies are putting their low bandwidth, easy to use interface money these days, which is ironic given that mobile connections often have more bandwidth than land connections. But thankfully these sites are available via the web, so if you’re in a bind, you can use them on a regular machine, which sometimes I find myself doing with Twitter.