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Twitter launches a ‘lite’ mobile web app that’s optimized for emerging markets

Twitter has taken the wraps off a new data-optimized version of its service that it hopes will be a hit among emerging.

It’s called Twitter Lite and, unlike similar ‘Lite’ apps from Facebook and others, it is browser-based — living at mobile.twitter.com. It is essentially a data-optimized version of the regular Twitter service that, the company said, loads fast and will work well on limited internet connections. It added that, already, “hundreds of millions” visit the mobile app each month but now it wants to expand that reach.

A web app isn’t as powerful as a native app, but Twitter said it had opted for this approach because it believes it can make its service accessible to new users. “It works on most smartphones and tablets without an App Store or Google Play account. You won’t need an email account or credit card either,” it said.

The app also comes in at less than 1MB — making it well-sized for cheaper handset that don’t have a lot of storage — while on Android phones it includes notifications and alerts, offline access and the potential for a home screen app.

Twitter hasn’t had anything like the success in emerging markets as Facebook. Beyond a monthly user base of 1.86 billion, Facebook’s revamped Lite app alone counts 200 million users just two years after its launch. That makes it the company’s fastest growing service, and it isn’t all that far from Twitter’s entire userbase, which stands at 319 million.

India, in particular, is a place where Twitter has struggled. India’s online population is tipped to reach 450 million-465 million people by June 2017, according to a recent report co-authored by the Internet and Mobile Association of India. And yet reports have suggested that less than 20 percent of India-based social network users are on Twitter.

India is very much the target here. Twitter said it has agreed to a partnership with Vodafone, which will see the operator — soon to be India’s largest based on subscribers — “promote” the service to its 177 million customers.

Interestingly, Twitter wants to sell its Lite app as a way to get updates and alerts on the go.

“No matter where you are in the world, we want to make Twitter the best way for you to get real-time updates on news, sports, entertainment, politics, and other topics that matter most to you,” it added.

The real question is why Twitter Lite has taken so long to be released?

The service was developed last year by a team in India alongside a messaging app for emerging markets, according to a report from BuzzFeed, but it appeared to have been canned. TechCrunch first wrote about the potential for Twitter Lite back in 2009, when Facebook’s first version of its Lite app was announced, so today’s introduction is long, long overdue.

Featured Image: Bryce Durbin

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