Facebook has 40 million African users, but only a fraction of them are able to connect to the social network on their mobile phones, either because the phones don't support mobile internet or because the service is too expensive. Customers on mobile carrier Orange, however, will soon be able to purchase access to a simplified version of Facebook through a partnership between Orange and Myriad. The service works by using Unstructured Supplementary Service Data, or USSD, a technology that's similar to SMS but uses a continued connection rather than discrete messages. USSD is already used for social networking or mobile email in places like India, but Orange says it will be the first carrier to launch USSD Facebook in Africa.
After entering a code for a specific USSD service, customers who've paid for the service will be able to use a simplified, text-only version of Facebook to check or post status updates, comment on updates, and send and receive friend invitations. Although it won't be free like Orange's mobile Wikipedia, it's also an improvement over sending messages through SMS, which is currently the only way to access Facebook in Africa without a mobile internet connection.