Facebook launches Instagram Lite with minimal data usage for poor communities

When COVID-19 closed the Facebook Inc. offices in Tel Aviv, Michelle Lourie found herself working in a shed on the kibbutz where she lives with her family in Israel. It’s a far cry from Tel Aviv, a city techno-edgy enough to merit being called the world’s startup capital. In addition to fielding visits from her three small children in her new digs, the product manager had to contend with the bleats of goats grazing outside and an internet connection that was spotty at best.

It was the perfect setting for her latest project.

Over the past year, Lourie and her team in Tel Aviv developed Instagram Lite in collaboration with a New York–based team including Instagram engineering, product, design and research.

This new app for Android is designed to provide people living in rural and remote communities with a high-quality Instagram experience using minimal data.

The app, which is rolling out in more than 170 countries, arrived not a moment too soon.

“Our teams build these lightweight versions of our apps for people with low connectivity or limited data plans because our basic premise is to leave no one behind,”

adds Tzach Hadar, Director of Product Management at Facebook Tel Aviv, one of the largest strategic engineering hubs for Facebook globally.

“We wanted the Instagram experience to remain fast, high-quality and reliable, irrespective of the device, platform and network people are on.”

What the team came up with is an app that requires only 2 MB to download on Android — considerably less than the full-size version, which was closer to 30 MB — but retains the key features that people using entry-level devices want.

To keep those features on the smaller app, the team took a page from Facebook Lite, another Tel Aviv creation that debuted a few years ago, by offloading into the cloud much of the code from the app running on the phone.

Starting today, people in more than 170 countries will be able to download Instagram Lite in the Google Play Store to have a high-quality Instagram experience, no matter what network or device they’re on. Instagram will be rolling out the app globally soon.

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