Instagram slims down to broaden appeal

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Instagram Lite

You might think that Instagram has hit peak saturation – surely everyone who wants to post pictures of their plates is doing it already? Nevertheless, this week the picture-sharing social network launched a new, lighter – #thinspo – version of their app in order to broaden their reach into emerging markets.

Instagram Lite is only available for the moment on Android. It needs just 573 kilobytes to function, compared to the 30 megabytes gobbled up by the standard Instagram app.

At one 55th of the size, the slimmed-down version is better suited to places where network coverage is sometimes unreliable and data generally expensive. The app will also be quicker to download and is designed to function well on older models of Android phones (using less storage space).

The launch flew somewhat under the radar, simply quietly appearing on the Google Play App Store. An Instagram spokesperson later responded to industry news site TechCrunch, saying “We are testing a new version of Instagram for Android that takes up less space on your device, uses less data, and starts faster.” There was no comment on whether the app will allow adverts, which are a major culprit of draining data.

So which features have been shed to save on space? Instagram Lite has a back-to-basics feel. You can (obviously) still post photos to your feed – and apply filters to them. Users also have access to the Explore section and are able to search for other accounts to follow. 2016’s popular addition, Stories, is also still fully functional; you can both watch and post your own.

The more data-demanding features will not be available for Instagram Lite users, however. Sharing videos is a no-go and direct, private messages are out, too – at least for the moment.

It is hoped that this lightweight version will help the Facebook-owned app reach new audiences in the developing world. Instagram has become a giant in the social media landscape since its creation in 2010. This month, it announced it had 1 billion users worldwide, having grown by roughly 200 million accounts a year over the last few years. If they are to continue this phenomenal rate of growth, they’ll need to appeal to new markets where unlimited data packages are scarce.

Other companies have already experimented with more svelte apps, including Twitter, Skype and LinkedIn. In 2015, Facebook launched Facebook Lite which was joined by Messenger Lite in 2018. It remains to be seen if Instagram’s main rival, Snapchat, releases its own, more accessible version in the near future.

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