Facebook is reaching out to emerging markets where it hasn't made much of an imprint -- and it's working.
The world's largest social network announced on Sunday that it has more than 100 million monthly users for its Facebook For Every Phone, a streamlined app for non-smartphones. The app was designed to work on more than 3,000 feature phones, which are low-end cell phones that don't have the compute power of smartphones.
"Today, millions of people in developing markets like India, Indonesia and the Philippines are relying on this technology to connect with Facebook, without having to purchase a smartphone," wrote Ran Makavy, Facebook growth manager in a blog post. "This is an important milestone for us. Facebook's mission is to make the world more open and connected, and Facebook For Every Phone enables people around the globe to connect to the people and things they care about most, no matter what kind of mobile device they use."
Facebook has reported that it has more than 1 billion worldwide users, or one out of seven people on the planet. However, Facebook CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg has said that the social network can do more.
Facebook, which is laser focused on drawing in mobile users, wants to connect the whole world. To do that, the social network needs to reach out to people in developing countries who aren't using the latest iPhone or Android system.
"Going after developing markets is a smart move for Facebook," said Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group. "This is a huge market with vast numbers of people. With it, Facebook gets access to these potential users and brings them into the Facebook fold early. For Facebook, it gives them the opportunity to sell ads geared to these folks."
The Facebook for Every Phone app includes well-known Facebook features like the News Feed, Messenger and Photos. It also is designed to make it easy for users to create a new account and find their online friends.
Facebook noted that the app is optimized to use less data than other Java apps and mobile sites, making it more affordable to use. "We also have partnerships with mobile operators around the world to offer free or discounted data access to Facebook For Every Phone," added Makavy.
He also said it's working just as company execs had hoped.
"In just two years, Facebook For Every Phone has successfully put Facebook into the hands of millions of people around the world with limited access to the Internet, giving them the power to connect and share," Makavy said.
For many people in developing countries, the new Facebook app could be their only Web portal, Olds said.
"Facebook need to make sure that it can be used on any device possible - even dumb phones," he added. "Facebook knows which phones are using Facebook for Every Phone, right? So they'll be able to target specific ads that best fit that market in that geography. Whenever you have a unique way to reach a market, that's valuable no matter what."
This article, In Facebook's quest to connect the world, app reaches emerging markets, was originally published at Computerworld.com.
Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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