Facebook unveils Tel Aviv-developed Instagram Lite

Five years after launching Facebook Lite, social media giant is bringing Instagram to the developing world

Allon Sinai 12:0820.10.20
Facebook unveiled on Tuesday its latest lightweight application, announcing it was testing a new version of Instagram Lite, an app for Android that was developed in Tel Aviv. Facebook Lite was launched in 2015, targeting developing markets and designed to work in areas with limited internet connections. It is currently available in over 100 countries and Facebook plans to use a similar rollout for Instagram Lite. The app, which is less than 2MB compared to the 32MB required for the full version, was designed to offer the core features of the app for Android and was already made available for testing in Southeast Asia last month, with countries in Africa and then India next in line.


The development of the app was co-led by Facebook's R&D hub in Tel Aviv, one of the largest strategic engineering hubs for Facebook globally.


Instagram Lite features. Photo: Instagram Instagram Lite features. Photo: Instagram


“Instagram Lite builds on the work we did for Facebook Lite in Tel Aviv. We took many of the lessons learned and technologies developed while we were creating Facebook Lite and applied them to Instagram Lite, together with our basic premise to leave no one behind," said Tzach Hadar, Director of Product Management for Lite interfaces and Tel Aviv tech site lead. "With Instagram Lite people around the world will enjoy a high-quality Instagram experience, no matter what device or network they are using."


With a significant proportion of people in emerging markets not having access to high-speed Wi-Fi internet, they are left to rely on their mobile connection which typically doesn’t go above 2G/3G. Instagram Lite was built to bring a reliable Instagram experience to users on all network types and when bandwidth is at a minimum.


“We have started testing the new version of Instagram Lite for Android with a small group of users and so far, the feedback has been very positive," said Michelle Lourie, Product Manager, Instagram Lite.


Covid-19 lockdowns around the world presented another challenge for Facebook's development teams, but Gal Zellermayer, Software Engineering Manager, Instagram Lite, said they managed to improvise around the difficulties.


"Covid-19 forced us to work from home and presented additional challenges and this was significant as things that we were used to doing previously, like opening a physical war room ahead of the launch of a new application could no longer be done," Zellermayer said in a conference call on Tuesday. "We created a virtual war room and did all the brainstorming remotely. Secondly, until the pandemic, we relied on in-person meetings to do our user research; this is where we meet with groups of people who test our apps and ask them questions about their experience. We had to move these meetings virtually too and it was difficult not being able to sit next to a person and ask them to show you what issues they have or what they like about the app.


"We used proven technological principles in the development after seeing that this technology works with Facebook Lite," added Zellermayer. "We took the same principles and adapted them to Instagram Lite. Modern applications are usually tens of MB large, but Instagram Lite is less than 2MB. We basically took most of our code and moved it from the phone to our server farms. This saves a lot of memory and processing resources that were previously required from the phone."