Twitter has launched a “Lite” version of its main app. Only, this isn’t a full-fledged desktop application or a traditional mobile app: it’s a mobile web app, which means it only uses up 1MB of space on your device, loads 30 percent faster and uses up to 70 percent less cellular data.
Clearly, Twitter is going after the 45 percent of the smartphone market that still sits squarely on 2G devices. That, and slow connections seem to be the reason for developing a lighter version of Twitter.
2G devices are generally what we refer to as feature phones, but with internet connectivity. They were the phones before iPhone, the first iPhone itself being a 2G GSM device, but with a touchscreen that made all the difference in the world.
Ten years on, and 2G is still the king of mobile phones with 45 percent market share, and that’s the segment Twitter seems to be targeting with the Lite version.
Users can simply head over to mobile.twitter.com to access the Lite version, although that iPhone 7 you just bought might be overkill for such a site. Essentially, it is a mobile-optimized web application that goes easy on data, but is big on performance and speed.
As Twitter describes it:
“Hundreds of millions of people visit mobile.twitter.com every month. We want Twitter Lite to be the best way to use Twitter when your connectivity is slow, unreliable, limited, or expensive. We have been able to achieve speed and reliability through a series of incremental performance improvements known as the PRPL pattern and by using the new capabilities of modern browsers on Android (e.g., Google Chrome) which include Service Worker, IndexedDB, Web App Install Banners, and Web Push Notifications.”
Twitter Lite is essentially a Progressive Web App (PWA) similar to what Google has been working on for Android for some time now – no installation required, and very low device resource usage. Google Chrome 57 and Google Chrome 58 for Android bring deep integration for PWAs, so this is actually the perfect time for Twitter to be launching a Lite version of its app.
But when you look at it from a business viewpoint, Twitter Lite could have a high level of positive impact on Twitter’s active user base, which has been showing sluggish growth for the longest time. By leveraging the dominance of 2G networks around the world, especially in countries like India, Twitter likely hopes to see an increase in adoption rates of its microblogging platform.
That much is clear, because developed countries are already shutting down their 2G networks.
In the United States, AT&T has already shut down its 2G networks as of January 2017; Verizon will follow in 2019 and T-Mobile in 2020. In Canada, only Rogers Wireless provides 2G support, and only until 2018. Singapore will see a full shutdown this month, on 18 April 2017 and several other countries are already clearing up their radio bands in preparation for Gigabit LTE and 5G networks.
So, it’s obvious that Lite is going after emerging markets, where 2G device numbers are still very high. Basically, they’re going after users that are still on the older technology, which brings its own set of challenges such as language barriers (that could actually turn out to be an advantage), low ad revenues and so on.
But the question is: can Twitter Lite succeed in achieving the goal of user growth for the company? We don’t know yet, but it’s reassuring to know that management is leaving no stone unturned in its quest for growth and relevance. More users means more advertising opportunities, even if average revenue per user comes in at a low rate that is typical of emerging markets.
All things considered, is this an attempt to grasp at straws as its platform loses more shine year after year?
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