Much of Facebook's projected growth over the next few years is in regions of the world where an iPhone or Android device is a novelty rather than a staple. Consequently, the company has been making some strategic moves: On Wednesday, Facebook announced a new mobile app optimized for lower-end cell phones and a plan to make it available in many countries without data fees.
"The app provides a better Facebook experience for our most popular features, including an easier-to-navigate home screen, contact synchronization, and fast scrolling of photos and friend updates," explained a blog post by Mark Heynen, a program manager at Facebook.
It's downloadable through Snaptu rather than accessible through a mobile Web browser. That means it can be more enhanced, akin to a higher-end smartphone app than the more basic 0.facebook.com, a mobile site that Facebook launched last year with some similar no-fee agreements in place.
Developed in partnership with Snaptu, a mobile development company, the new Facebook site works on more than 2,500 cell phones from the likes of Nokia, Sony Ericsson, and LG. The company has also inked agreements with carriers in countries as varied as Brazil, Canada, Tunisia, Romania, and Hong Kong (currently, none are in the U.S.) to make access to the site free of data charges for 90 days to start. More agreements are on the way, including potentially extended no-fee plans.
This appears to be putting a more official face to a project that Facebook has been working on for some time, launching ephemeral experiments like Facebook Lite for easier access to the social network from slower connections and more low-tech browsers. It's kept around 0.facebook.com.
Facebook's mobile initiatives made headlines last year when the company was rumored to be developing a mobile phone or operating system of its own, something that it has obliquely denied.
This post was expanded at 4:21 a.m. PT on Thursday.