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How Facebook Lite Is Evolving to Keep Up With the Changing Smartphone and Telecom Landscape



In less than six months from now, Facebook Lite will officially complete five years of its launch, however the fifth anniversary of its debut is far closer. Facebook first piloted the app in eight countries in January 2015 before officially launching it over four months later and expanding its availability to a few more markets. The app didn’t reach India until late June. Although this little (literally) app from Facebook doesn’t get talked about a lot, it has played a significant role in making Facebook a big part of people’s lives in developing and under-developed countries around the world.

Released keeping in mind, the Menlo Park, California-based company’s mantra of “leave no one behind”, Facebook Lite brings a feature-rich Facebook experience to users who otherwise might not be able to use the network, especially those whose primary device to access the Web is a low-end smartphone. But as Facebook Lite and the smartphone market matures, let us take a look at how the app is changing to keep itself relevant.

Introduced for select Asian markets on June 5, 2015, Facebook Lite was originally meant to make sure that Facebook had an app that worked on literally every Android phone and not just worked, “worked well”. Also, it was supposed to be small and required less data to function. The Facebook Lite team was successful in achieving that. The original version of Facebook Lite for Android was less than 1MB in size and it included Facebook’s core experiences like News Feed, status updates, photos, notifications, and more.

“Back then [at the time of Facebook Lite’s original launch], we were really focussed on the broad, what’s the biggest group and how do we make sure we leave no one behind. Which was like our number one thing – leave no one behind,” Tzach Hadar, director of product management at Facebook, told Gadgets 360 at the company’s Engineering Hub in Tel Aviv.

This strategy of targeting the broadest possible set of consumers helped the company and Facebook Lite manage to reach 100 million active monthly users in just nine months of launch, making it the fastest Facebook app to reach the 100-million mark.

Facebook’s Tzach Hadar says Facebook Lite team will work to bring more creative tools to the app
Photo Credit: Facebook

Facebook Lite has come a long way since then. It is no longer just available for Android and its iOS version completed one-year of existence a couple of months ago. A version of the app is also available for KaiOS that doesn’t carry the Lite moniker but is essentially the same app built on Java by the Facebook Lite team. For the uninitiated, KaiOS is the operating system used by JioPhone, a smart feature phone from Reliance Jio in India.

In these five years (almost) of its existence, Facebook Lite has grown and matured with the smartphone market. As data became cheaper and smartphones became more powerful, the Facebook Lite team has tried to include more and more features to the app, so that the Lite version users don’t have to feel second class to the main Facebook app.

“We believe apps for emerging markets, lite apps, apps for people with data cost constraints, apps for people with low-end devices, these shouldn’t provide a lame experience,” said Yuval Kesten, director of engineering, Facebook Lite. “These should provide an optimised experience, a tailored experience, an awesome experience, and not a lame experience just because you happen to be on a poor network or poor device.”

In the same bid, over the years, Facebook Lite has added features like reactions, stories, marketplace, and most recently – Facebook Live support. The features like live video support, something that until a few years ago would have been pretty much impossible to bring to Facebook Lite because of the size constraints, have been possible because of the app’s modular approach that allows it to download features and enhancements based on user’s needs.

The company had introduced Facebook Live support in the Lite app a few months ago. It is not a feature majority of Facebook Lite app users would need but for those who want it will get it seamlessly as Facebook will download a “live video” module to their phone the first time they try to use the feature. So, with such an approach, Live Video module only becomes available to those who need or want it, others don’t have to spend their data or onboard storage for an unnecessary feature.

“I think today the thing is more about how do we make sure that we are not holding anybody back and we are giving them the higher-end experience where they need it without surprising [users] – so it’s not like one day it is going to be all high-end, but if you are always on Wi-Fi or if your Internet is very cheap, good, we will give you a better experience,” Hadar explained.

As core features take precedence and app size continues to a big obstacle, the Lite team has avoided in adding creative tools to the app as they tend to more space-intensive, however, creative tools are going to be one of fronts that the team will be tackling going forward.

yuval facebook Yuval Facebook Lite

Facebook’s Yuval Kesten believes Lite apps shouldn’t offer a poor experience
Photo Credit: Facebook

“Creative capabilities on Lite, that’s one of the gaps. When you are not as limited by space and processing part, you can have advanced camera features and stuff like that. We are behind on these. But that’s a space that we will definitely work to improve.”

“There is no reason why you shouldn’t have the same creative abilities [as the main Facebook app]. So, we work hard to make sure we don’t hurt the “leave no one behind” [mantra] but we are able to introduce this,” Hadar revealed.

Even with the improvements in connectivity, smartphones, and data cost, Facebook doesn’t see any decrease in the demand for Facebook Lite any time soon. The company believes the reasons why people use Facebook Lite may have become different, but they are still using it. Not only the app is still getting major traction from countries like India, sub-Saharan Africa has emerged as a big market for the app, thanks to sudden Internet growth in the region. So, while the company is no longer sharing any numbers about Facebook Lite usage, it maintains the app’s growth hasn’t slowed down.

Disclosure: Facebook sponsored the correspondent’s flights and hotel for the trip to attend Facebook Lite press day and Systems @Scale event in Tel Aviv, Israel.

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5 tips for brands that want to succeed in the new era of influencer marketing – TechCrunch



If I told you a decade ago that a spin bike would be a social community, you’d have had a good laugh. But that’s precisely what Peloton is: A spin bike with a social community where the instructors are the influencers.

Peloton is just one example of how social is being integrated into every aspect of the customer experience in an increasingly digital world. Whether it’s considering a new restaurant to check out, a movie to see or a product to buy, most people look at reviews before making a final decision. They want social proof as an indicator of quality and relevance.

Influencers are a natural byproduct of this desire for social validation, and as social permeates the customer journey, creators have become an essential source of validation and trust.

Influencers are a natural byproduct of this desire for social validation, and as social permeates the customer journey, creators have become an essential source of validation and trust. Indeed, social validation is what social platforms are built on, so it’s a significant component of how we derive relevance online — and the deeper integration of social is changing the dynamic between brands and digital creators.

The shifting economy of creator monetization

Brand sponsorships are the holy grail for creators hoping to monetize their online influence. According to an eMarketer report, brand partnerships are still the No. 1 source of revenue for most digital creators.

However, digital creators have a lot more monetization options to choose from, thanks to Patreon, affiliate platforms, paid content platforms and platform revenue sharing, making it easier to earn a living without relying so heavily on brand sponsorships.

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As a result, creators are diversifying their revenue streams, which, for some creators, allows them to be more selective about the brands they work with. What’s more, creators aren’t reliant on just one channel or one form of revenue.

YouTube creators probably have the most diversified revenue, often combining brand sponsorships, subscription models, affiliate deals, tipping/donations, their line of branded products and revenue share. However, it’s important to note that not all monetization options apply to every creator. But with so many options to choose from, making a living as a digital creator is more accessible than ever.

Here are a few of the ways online creators can monetize their content:

Ad revenue sharing: Advertising is the most traditional form of revenue for online creators. With this model, ads are injected into and around the creator’s content, and they make a certain percentage of revenue based on impressions. However, the revenue split can vary based on the platform, and some platforms have a specific threshold creators must hit before they can participate in ad revenue sharing.

Affiliate marketing: Similar to advertising or a brand sponsorship, affiliate marketing is an agreement for a share of revenue based on products sold. This kind of arrangement generally works best when the creator has a blog, website or YouTube account. Affiliate links allow the influencer to proactively choose the products they want to talk about and earn from, rather than having to wait for a brand deal to come their way.

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Instagram’s TikTok rival, Reels, rolls out ads worldwide – TechCrunch



Instagram Reels are getting ads. The company announced today it’s launching ads in its short-form video platform and TikTok rival, Reels, to businesses and advertisers worldwide. The ads will be up to 30 seconds in length, like Reels themselves, and vertical in format, similar to ads found in Instagram Stories. Also like Reels, the new ads will loop, and people will be able to like, comment, and save them, the same as other Reels videos.

The company had previously tested Reels ads in select markets earlier this year, including India, Brazil, Germany, and Australia, then expanded those tests to Canada, France, the U.K. and the U.S. more recently. Early adopters of the new format have included brands like BMW, Nestlé (Nespresso), Louis Vuitton, Netflix, Uber, and others.

Instagram tells us the ads will appear in most places users view Reels content, including on the Reels tab, Reels in Stories, Reels in Explore, and Reels in your Instagram Feed, and will appear in between individual Reels posted by users. However, in order to be served a Reels ad, the user first needs to be in the immersive, full-screen Reels viewer.

Image Credits: Instagram

The company couldn’t say how often a user might see a Reels ad, noting that the number of ads a viewer may encounter will vary based on how they use Instagram. But the company is monitoring user sentiment around ads themselves, and the overall commercially of Reels, it says.

Like Instagram’s other advertising products, Reels ads will launch with an auction-based model. But so far, Instagram is declining to share any sort of performance metrics around how those ads are doing, based on tests. Nor is it yet offering advertisers any creator tools or templates that could help them get started with Reels ads. Instead, Instagram likey assumes advertisers already have creative assets on hand or know how to make them, because of Reels ads’ similarities to other vertical video ads found elsewhere, including on Instagram’s competitors.

While vertical video has already shown the potential for driving consumers to e-commerce shopping sites, Instagram hasn’t yet taken advantage of Reels ads to drive users to its built-in Instagram Shops, though that seems like a natural next step as it attempts to tie the different parts of its app together.

But perhaps ahead of that step, Instagram needs to make Reels a more compelling destination — something other TikTok rivals, which now include both Snap and YouTube — have done by funding creator content directly. Instagram, meanwhile, had made offers to select TikTok stars directly.

The launch of Instagram Reels ads follows news of TikTok’s climbing ad prices. Bloomberg reported this month that TikTok is now asking for more than $1.4 million for a home page takeover ad in the U.S., as of the third quarter, which will jump to $1.8 million by Q4 and more than $2 million on a holiday. Though the company is still building its ads team and advertisers haven’t yet allocated large portions of their video budget to the app, that tends to follow user growth — and TikTok now has over 100 million monthly active users in the U.S.

Both apps, Instagram and TikTok, now have over a billion monthly active users on a global basis, though Reels is only a part of the larger Instagram platform. For comparison, Instagram Stories is used by some 500 million users, which demonstrates Instagram’s ability to drive traffic to different areas of its app. Instagram declined to share how many users Reels has as of today.

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Twine raises $3.3M to add networking features to virtual events – TechCrunch



Twine, a video chat startup that launched amid the pandemic as a sort of “Zoom for meeting new people,” shifted its focus to online events and, as a result, has now closed on $3.3 million in seed funding. To date, twine’s events customers have included names like Microsoft, Amazon, Forrester, and others, and the service is on track to do $1 million in bookings in 2021, the company says.

The new round was led by Moment Ventures, and included participation from Coelius Capital, AltaIR Capital, Mentors Fund, Rosecliff Ventures, AltaClub, and Bloom Venture Partners. Clint Chao, founding Partner at Moment, will join twine’s board of directors with the round’s close.

The shift into the online events space makes sense, given twine’s co-founders —  Lawrence Coburn, Diana Rau, and Taylor McLoughlin — hail from DoubleDutch, the mobile events technology provider acquired by Cvent in 2019.

Coburn, previously CEO of DoubleDutch, had been under a non-compete with its acquirer until December 2020, which is one reason why he didn’t first attempt a return to the events space.

The team’s original idea was to help people who were missing out on social connections under Covid lockdowns find a way to meet others and chat online. This early version of twine saw some small amount of traction, as 10% of its users were even willing to pay. But many more were nervous about being connected to random online strangers, twine found.

So the company shifted its focus to the familiar events space, with a specific focus on online events which grew in popularity due to the pandemic. While setting up live streams, text chats and Q&A has been possible, what’s been missing from many online events was the casual and unexpected networking that used to happen in-person.

“The hardest thing to bring to virtual events was the networking and the serendipity — like the conversations that used to happen in an elevator, in the bar, the lobby — these kinds of things,” explains Coburn. “So we began testing a group space version of twine — bringing twine to existing communities as opposed to trying to build our own, new community. And that showed a lot more legs,” he says.

By January 2021, the new events-focused version of twine was up-and-running, offering a set of professional networking tools for event owners. Unlike one-to-many or few-to-many video broadcasts, twine connects a small number of people for more intimate conversations.

“We did a lot of research with our customers and users, and beyond five [people in a chat], it turns into a webinar,” notes Coburn, of the limitations on twine’s video chat. In twine, a small handful of people are dropped into a video chat experience– and now, they’re not random online strangers. They’re fellow event attendees. That generally keeps user behavior professional and the conversations productive.

Event owners can use the product for free on twine’s website for small events with up to 30 users, but to scale up any further requires a license. Twine charges on a per attendee basis, where customers buy packs of attendees on a software-as-a-service model.

The company’s customers can then embed twine directly in their own website or add a link that pops open the twine website in a separate browser tab.

Coburn says twine has found a sweet spot with big corporate event programs. The company has around 25 customers, but some of those have already used twine for 10 or 15 events after first testing out the product for something smaller.

“We’re working with five or six of the biggest companies in the world right now,” noted Coburn.

Image Credits: twine

Because the matches are digital, twine can offer other tools like digital “business card” exchanges and analytics and reports for the event hosts and attendees alike.

Despite the cautious return to normal in the U.S., which may see in-person events return in the year ahead, twine believes there’s still a future in online events. Due to the pandemic’s lasting impacts, organizations are likely to adopt a hybrid approach to their events going forward.

“I don’t think there’s ever been an industry that has gone through a 15 months like the events industry just went through,” Coburn says. “These companies went to zero, their revenue went to zero and some of them were coming from hundreds of millions of dollars. So what happened was a digital transformation like the world has never seen,” he adds.

Now, there are tens of thousands of event planners who have gotten really good at tech and online events. And they saw the potential in online, which would sometimes deliver 4x or 5x the attendance of virtual, Coburn points out.

“This is why you see LinkedIn drop $50 million on Hopin,” he says, referring to the recent fundraise for the virtual conference technology business. (The deal was reportedly for less than $50 million). “This is why you see the rounds of funding that are going into Hoppin and Bizzabo and Hubilo and all the others. This is the taxi market, pre-Uber.”

Of course, virtual events may end up less concerned with social features when they can offer an in-person experience. And those who want to host online events may be looking for a broader solution than Zoom + twine, for example.

But twine has ideas about what it wants to do next, including asynchronous matchmaking, which could end up being more valuable as it could lead to better matches since it wouldn’t be limited to only who’s online now.

With the funding, twine is hiring in sales and customer success, working on accessibility improvements, and expanding its platform. To date, twine has raised $4.7 million.

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