Facebook relaunches Instagram Lite app, begins test in India

Manish Singh
·3-min read
Instagram logo is seen displayed on smartphone in this illustration photo taken Krakow, Poland on March 10, 2020. (Photo by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Facebook is working to bring back the Instagram Lite app, months after it shut down the light version offering worldwide.

The social conglomerate said on Wednesday that it is testing the revamped Instagram Lite app in India, where it hopes to “gain valuable insights” about the new offering before “a global rollout” of the app later.

The revamped Instagram Lite app weighs less than 2MB and delivers a “fast, reliable, and responsive” experience of the social service. The Android app supports Bangla, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Punjabi, Tamil and Telugu, but currently lacks a several core features of Instagram, including Reels, Shopping and IGTV.

Facebook quietly discontinued the previous iteration of Instagram Lite earlier this year. In July, Vishal Shah, VP of Product at Instagram, told TechCrunch that the company had identified some issues in the app and was working to resolve those. In September, a new Lite app was spotted in the wild, though Facebook did not acknowledge it.

Lite apps are especially popular in emerging markets where most users don't have access to high-end smartphones or fast and cheap mobile internet data. The Facebook Lite app, for instance, had about 40 million monthly active users in India last month, while the Messenger Lite app had about 13 million, according to mobile insight firm App Annie, data of which an industry executive shared with TechCrunch. (Instagram's app had about 164 million users.)

Shah made the announcement about the revamped Instagram Lite app at the Facebook Fuel for India event on Wednesday, where scores of Facebook executives, including Mark Zuckerberg and Ajit Mohan, outlined a number of other programs they were working on for the world’s second largest internet market.

Instagram also announced the second version of "Born on Instagram," a one-year-old program it has built for content creators to better understand and leverage ways to collaborate with one another and explore monetization opportunities.

“With the test of Instagram Lite, and the next edition of Born on Instagram, we’re aiming to democratize expression and creativity for a greater number of people in India,” said Shah.

At the event, WhatsApp India head Abhijit Bose said that the company was working to launch sachet-sized health insurance offering to users in India this month. In July, WhatsApp had unveiled that it was working to pilot credit, insurance and pension services in India, the instant messaging app's biggest market by users, over the next year and a half.

"WhatsApp has proactively been working on several pilots to help ensure that every adult has access to the most basic critical financial and livelihood services through their mobile device. By the end of this year, we expect that people will be able to buy affordable sachet-sized health insurance through WhatsApp," Bose said today. For insurance protection, WhatsApp has partnered with SBI General, and for pension, with HDFC Pension.

Facebook, which identifies India as its biggest market by users, is also working with telecom giant Jio Platforms to help tens of millions of small businesses establish online presence and sell digitally. The American giant, which invested $5.7 billion in Jio Platforms this year, is collaborating to make Jio Platforms’ JioMart e-commerce service available through WhatsApp. Some new features are coming to JioMart’s WhatsApp channel in the “coming days,” Facebook and Reliance executives teased today.