Aug. 12, 2009 — -- Facebook Lite? What's that all about? Thousands of members of the online social-networking site logged on overnight and found a surprise message:
"You have been selected as a beta tester for Facebook Lite!
"We are building a faster, simpler version of Facebook that we call Facebook Lite. It's not finished yet and we have plenty of kinks to work out, but we would love to get your feedback on what we have built so far," the message said.
There was a link supplied -- http://lite.facebook.com -- but if you go there now you'll most likely be asked to log on to your regular (and presumably heavier) Facebook page, if you have one.
It turns out to have been a "mistake" by Facebook. This beta version was intended to be seen only in less developed countries where broadband is not as readily available as it is in the United States.
Part of a statement the company sent to ABCNews.com reads:
"Similar to the Facebook experience you get on your mobile phones, 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. 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."
The U.S. was apparently not supposed to be part of the beta.
"Last night, the test was temporarily exposed to a larger set of users by mistake," Facebook said.
Screen grabs of the "Lite" version have been all over the web (see the one on Twitgoo.com), and they show what looks much like a regular Facebook page, but with a fair number of features missing. "Events" and "Settings" weren't working yet when American users tried them.
Search now for "Facebook Lite" in Facebook's search bar -- and you'll quickly get such newly-formed groups as "Facebook Lite Sucks." But the simplified version wasn't meant for them. Instead, the intended audience is in countries where fast connections are hard to come by, such as India, China and Russia. A source confirmed the Lite version is being tested quietly in India and Brazil.
Is Facebook Lite competition for Twitter, with its ease in sending quick messages? Not specifically, we're told -- though it so happens Facebook on Tuesday bought FriendFeed.com, a California-based sharing service whose blue logo looks remarkably like Twitter's.
A Facebook user in India, Azhar Chougle, tried Facebook Lite and told Techcrunch, the tech blog, that he liked it. "And let me tell you," he wrote, "it's so much damn faster than the normal Facebook."