Well here it is. Just as we first discovered a few weeks ago, Facebook Lite has just been released for U.S. users to test out. Simply put, the site is SO much cleaner than Facebook regular, and much, much nicer to look at. Did I mention much, much faster?
Originally intended to be used in countries where high speed Internet connections are sparse or non-existant, apparently Facebook has realized there’s a real desire among all its users to have a smaller version of the service. [Update: More on that below] On top of a launch in the U.S., the service is also live in India right now, we’re told.
As we wrote last month:
All that being said, it is entirely possible that the service could find its way to the rest of the world as an option for those who maybe don’t want all the bells and whistles that Facebook provides, and instead just want speed. Facebook didn’t have anything to say on that matter, and specifically not the U.S., but it seems reasonable.
One great thing about Facebook Lite is that on top of being much cleaner, updates appear in real-time along the bottom of the page, something which is much nicer to look at then that ugly toolbar that is on Facebook Proper. This alongside the Facebook’s brilliant experimental desktop updater for Mac seems to show that the company is committed to user experience once again, rather than cluttering things up. Remember, keep it simple, stupid.
This move into the U.S. market with Lite is also interesting because rival MySpace did a similar thing to remove bloat back in April. Thin is in, it seems.
Of course, if you like applications on Facebook, you won’t like this version, as they are nowhere to be found. But the reason myself and many others started using Facebook in the first place was because of the social connections and data. I want to access this data as quickly as possible, I don’t care about playing games.
You’ll also notice that an “Events” tab has been added to the top toolbar. Again, this is much nicer than Facebook Proper, where events are buried in a sub-section. Also along the top, just above the Feed is a way to “View Top Stories” as opposed to those listed in order. I hate to keep repeating myself, but again, a great change.
You’ll also see that current and upcoming birthday for your contacts are at the top of the Feed.
So why India as well? Well, first of all, many people in India speak English. Second, as we noted previously, India is one of the countries that was originally being targeted by Facebook Lite, and it was the first test space it launched in several months ago. India also represents an area where Facebook is growing very fast. So fast, in fact, that Yahoo may have shut down a social network of its own, SpotM, in response to it. Google’s Orkut remains the leader in the country, however.
This is the third interesting development to come out of Facebook just today. This morning, it announced that it would open source a key part of the technology behind the recently acquired FriendFeed. And earlier this afternoon, it began using the “@ reply” syntax, mimicking the way people communicate on rival Twitter.
We’ve reached out to Facebook for comment as to why they decided to push this live in the U.S. so quickly. We’ll update when we hear back.
Update: Here’s what Facebook is saying on the matter:
We decided to roll out Facebook Lite in the U.S. to give users a simple, expedient alternative to facebook.com, and hope that it will fill this need. While the majority of our user base is outside the United States, we’re always working to enhance the new user experience even in markets where facebook.com is easily accessible. We have also found that people who are new to Facebook tend to be most interested in a simpler experience, focus on establishing their network of friends and communicating with them by writing on their walls, sending messages, and looking at pictures. We have introduced the Lite site with these new users in mind.
Update 2: And here’s Zuckerberg with the team that worked this banging the gong for the release.