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Twitter Unveils Data-Light Version of Service

Features designed for users in emerging markets with poor internet, like India

April 7, 2017 | Social Media

Twitter has unveiled a version of its service designed for users in emerging markets with slower internet connections and where data is a relatively expensive—and therefore precious—commodity. The new service, dubbed Twitter Lite, is not a native mobile app but instead works on mobile browsers.

Twitter claims the tweaks it has made to Twitter Lite result in a 40% decrease in data usage from its standard web app, with users able to achieve up to a 70% decrease should additional data-saving features be activated. The new version also takes up less than 1 MB of space on a device, a feature designed to appeal to users who don’t have a lot of onboard file storage space on their devices.

Although making Twitter less of a data hog will appeal to potential users in a number of emerging markets, the company appears to be focusing on India with the initiative.

In the official blog post announcing Twitter Lite, the company noted that it had partnered with India-based mobile service provider Vodafone to promote the new service to the company’s roughly 200 million subscribers.

The launch also coincided with the start of a major cricket tournament, the Indian Premier League’s Twenty20, a cultural event that generates a high volume of related tweets. Twitter also made its lite version available in six different languages used in India, a nod to the complexities of serving users in a country with 22 official languages.

A less data-thirsty version of Twitter potentially holds significant appeal for residents of India, a country that remains beset by slow internet connections. According to Akamai, India had the slowest average internet speeds in Q3 2016 of all Asia-Pacific markets studied, at just 4.1 Mbps.

Twitter has made its ambition in India clear. In an interview with exchange4media.com from November 2016, Taranjeet Singh, Twitter’s head of business for its India unit, said the country was “among the top five markets for us both in terms of users as well as revenue.” Singh also said Twitter’s advertising revenues in India had grown 150% year over year.

But Twitter Lite may not be enough to increase the platform’s user numbers, and the service has not had much luck cracking India’s social media sector so far.

eMarketer estimates that just 0.9% of the country’s population, or 10.9 million people, will use Twitter this year. In addition, eMarketer projects less than 5% of social network users in India will access Twitter at least once a month through 2020. That’s in a country expected to have 223.1 million social network users this year, according to eMarketer.

Twitter’s creation of a data-light version of its service, in some cases, comes years after competitors rolled out similar features in India. Facebook, for example, launched its own “lite” version in India in June 2015 as a native mobile app for devices running Google’s Android operating system.

Other internet services have also created less demanding versions of their offerings to cater to users with weak internet access. Just this week, YouTube launched a new mobile app in India called YouTube Go that was designed specifically with those same challenges in mind.

Rahul Chadha

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