Thursday, August 13, 2009

Facebook loses weight

In a move that may prove a big hit to those with slow Internet connections, Facebook has begun tests on a new lighter website. Facebook Lite, which is currently being trialled in India, is a cut-down version of the traditional graphics heavy version of the site.

The company said that the new site would be simpler to use. "Facebook Lite is a fast-loading, simplified version of Facebook that enables people to make comments, accept friend requests, write on people's walls, and look at photos and status updates," the company said in a statement. "We are currently testing Facebook Lite in countries where we are seeing lots of new users coming to Facebook for the first time and are looking to start off with a more simple experience."

Facebook has an estimated 250 million users worldwide, though many exist in Europe, the United States and Canada where Internet speeds are faster. The company hopes that by providing a service that can be used on slower connections it will attract more users. While Facebook Lite is only available in India at present, there are plans to extend this to China and Russia.

However, the move into China may prove difficult. the country has blocked many social websites including Facebook for several months and the restrictions may continue until October as preparations for the 60th anniversary of the forming of the PRC gather pace. The announcement of Facebook Lite comes within days of Facebook acquiring the content-sharing service FriendFeed, which is also blocked in China.

Meanwhile Xiaonei, China's own version of a social networking site which works similarly to Facebook, and has even been criticised for directly copying the site, remains online. The fact it remains available while Facebook remains blocked has even brought allegations by some of unfair competition and a deliberate breaking of trade rules.

Since early this year vast numbers of mostly western sites have been blocked within the Chinese mainland. YouTube and Blogger were blocked in March and in June even Hotmail, Microsoft Messenger, Google and Gmail were subject to restrictions for a short time. In late June Facebook, Twitter, Picasa web albums were also targeted and still remain inaccessible. And more recently Chinese versions of micro-blogging sites such as Digu, Zuosa, Fanfou and Jiwai have also been shut down.

tvnewswatch, Beijing, China

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