Could You Survive Facebook’s 2G Tuesdays?

28 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Edit Facebook launches ‘2G Tuesdays’ so employees can empathize with people who have slow internet.

As part of its effort to develop apps and services for mobile markets worldwide, Facebook has begun giving employees the opportunity to experience for themselves the slow mobile Internet speeds found in developing countries. “2G Tuesdays” are a new weekly occurrence, during which employees connecting to Facebook at work will be asked whether they want to limit their speed to 2G for an hour. “We hope this will help us understand how people with 2G connectivity use our product, so we can address issues and pain points in future builds,” wrote Facebook product manager Chris Marra in a blog post describing the recurring event. In its quest to capture nearly every Internet-connected person on the planet, Facebook is rolling out a new internal program designed to help its staff better understand how users in regions with slowers connections access its site. “People are coming online at a staggering rate in emerging markets and, in most cases, are doing so on mobile via 2G connections,” a Facebook spokesperson told Mashable. “But on the lower end of 2G networks, it can take about two minutes to download a webpage.Since it’s headquartered in the epicenter of technology innovation, Facebook has decided to give its employees a taste of what users in parts of the world with less developed Internet infrastructure experience using the service.But this morning, when they logged on to Facebook, some employees’ news feeds loaded excruciatingly slowly at internet speeds they probably haven’t seen since the days of AOL dial-up.

To do so, the company is instituting a new initiative, dubbed “2G Tuesdays.” Every Tuesday, when employees log into the Facebook FB -0.54% mobile app, they’ll be prompted to opt into using the social network at a 2G speed — instead of the 3G, 4G, or LTE speed most of us are used to — for the next hour. It is entirely optional and doesn’t last the full day, but it will let staff who don’t get to travel much to gain a better understanding of the issues that users in far-flung countries face. Still, it may help engineers used to gigabit connections better understand the limitations under which millions are using Facebook — or unable to use it, as the case may be.

Given that nearly one billion of Facebook’s monthly active users live outside of the U.S. and Europe, you can argue that this new initiative isn’t just smart… it’s essential. If they opt in by pressing a button, the app adjusts their connection speed to a much slower one, comparable to the speed you might actually get on a 2G network.

Facebook teams regularly tests the service’s performance on web and mobile apps by taking trips to countries where network conditions aren’t as advanced, and make improvements on page load times, data efficiency, app size, and so on. Facebook has been making a big push into emerging markets in recent years, and India (which has 1.2 billion potential Facebook users) is its most sought-after prize. The company hosted Indian prime minister Narendra Modi at its campus last month, and Mark Zuckerberg is currently on a visit to India to host a town hall Q&A, according to his Facebook feed, with a stop at the Taj Mahal. That, combined with Internet.org’s walled-garden approach to app development, has rubbed some Indian users the wrong way, according to the New York Times: Facebook says the primary goal is to show people what the Internet is all about.

But many Indians want more and complain that, contrary to its altruistic claims, the project is simply a way to get them onto Facebook and to sign up for paid plans from Reliance. They’re an attempt to bridge the “empathy gap,” and get engineers thinking about how customers in a hugely important market will use Facebook’s products. If Facebook can design apps that work perfectly on shaky 2G connections, it has a better chance of overcoming political and cultural resistance and getting those 1.2 billion people onto Facebook.

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