Facebook Streamlines Android App For Emerging Markets

Facebook has a billion users, but its sights are set squarely on the next billion--or several billion--in developing nations. Sure, some of that drive represents a desire for profits, but Mark Zuckerberg also appears to genuinely believe that Internet access is a human right.

In any case, he wants everyone to have Internet access, and he wants everyone to use Facebook, and the company has streamlined its product to work better in nations where Internet speeds are relatively slow.


Facebook sent a team to Africa to test out the mobile Facebook experience, and their findings prompted them to action. “We purchased several different Android handsets to test the latest version of the Facebook app – and the testing process proved to be difficult. The combination of an intermittent, low-bandwidth network connection and a lack of memory space on the devices resulted in slow load times and constant crashes,” wrote Facebook’s Alex Sourov in a blog post. “We even burned through our monthly data plans in 40 minutes.”

In reaction, the team returned home and got to work improving the app. They figured out how to reduce the startup time by 50%, and they’re now using WebP compression to convert images uploaded to Facebook which improves data savings by 25% to 35% for JPEGs and 80% for PNGs. They also tweaked the caching process for images, and altogether, Facebook has improved its app’s data use by 50%.

The Facebook Android app now uses the OkHttp network stack and SPDY protocol for faster concurrent network transmissions, and the team improved the image pre-fetching algorithm and download queue for images.

It’s a good thing that Facebook is working to improve its product to make it more accessible, regardless of the reason.