Facebook has launched a new initiative that will help its employees sample the experience of using its social network on slow mobile internet connections, as is the case for hundreds of millions of its users who live in emerging markets.
Dubbed ‘2G Tuesdays’, the program allows Facebook staff to slow their mobile internet speed down to 2G for an hour, as Business Insider first reported. It is entirely optional and doesn’t last the full day, but it will let staff who don’t get to travel much to gain a better understanding of the issues that users in far-flung countries face.
Given that nearly one billion of Facebook’s monthly active users live outside of the U.S. and Europe, you can argue that this new initiative isn’t just smart… it’s essential. That’s because using Facebook on a 2G connection can be like using an entirely different service, but you wouldn’t necessarily be fully aware of that unless 2G was the only option you had.
“People are coming online at a staggering rate in emerging markets and, in most cases, are doing so on mobile via 2G connections. But on the lower end of 2G networks, it can take about two minutes to download a webpage. We need to understand how people use Facebook in different internet connections in all parts of the world so we can build the best experience for them,” a Facebook spokesperson told TechCrunch via email.
Facebook’s engineering director Tom Alison told Business Insider that 2G internet speeds “definitely tested my patience… it felt like parts of the product were just broken.”
That kind of enlightenment is exactly what Facebook wants those building its products and services to gain.
Ever conscious of its global user base, Facebook launched a stripped down version of its service for Android users in emerging markets this summer, and last year it revamped its main Android app to make smaller and more efficient. The U.S. firm does also, of course, offer its Internet.org service for emerging markets, too.