Instagram hit the milestone of 1 billion users last week, but to keep growing it needs to find new markets, including countries where mobile coverage is patchy and data is expensive. To meet the needs of these users, the company is launching Instagram Lite — a slimmed down version of Instagram designed to sip, not gulp, mobile data.
Instagram Lite has appeared without fanfare on the Google Play Store, with the company confirming the launch to TechCrunch, saying it’s available in Mexico this week and will expand to other countries in the future. A spokesperson for Instagram said the new app “takes up less space on your device, uses less data, and starts faster,” but did not say whether it would feature ads, which are an additional drain on data.
The new app is just 573 kilobytes in size — absolutely tiny! By comparison, the Instagram app on iOS is 246 times bigger at 141 megabytes (the app varies in size on Android). You can post photos and share and view stories on the app, but some features are currently unavailable, including posting videos and direct messaging between users. It’s not clear if messaging will ever be available in Instagram Lite, or if the company will leave it out in order to push people toward its standalone messaging app, Direct.
Launching a lightweight app has become standard practice for companies trying to expand beyond developed markets like Europe and the US. Facebook launched lightweight versions of its main Facebook app and Messenger, while Uber has done the same with Uber Lite.
And although these apps are designed for new markets, they can be appealing to any user. Messenger Lite, for example, gets rid of much of the pointless bloat Facebook has pumped in, leaving behind an app that’s more functional. If Instagram becomes similarly overloaded (looking at you, annoying IGTV banners) maybe we’ll all move to Instagram Lite instead.