Why’s Facebook so slow? This new app holds the offline fix

Perhaps you’re on 2G in India. Or LTE in Manhattan.

Facebook slow 2G app
Alex Sourov / Facebook, Inc.

The Facebook app is betting better for people with slow connections. Poor bandwidth, high latency, or intermittent availability will no longer be a problem in Zuck’s brave, new, offline world.

This is the latest result of Facebook’s focus on emerging markets and the challenges of the poor networks often found there. “Challenge Accepted,” apparently.

It’s easy to look at this as only a developing-world-network story. But it’ll also be useful for people in North America and other parts of the developed world. Useful for people in tunnels, on airplanes, or just battling congested networks.

Oh, and the underlying framework is open source. Which is nice.

In IT Blogwatch, bloggers can’t hear you now. Not to mention: Chris Marra and Alex Sourov’s fascinating explanation...

Your humble blogwatcher curated these bloggy bits for your entertainment.
[Developing story: Updated 8:41 am PST with more comment]

From the crazy-name-crazy-guy department, it’s Michael de Waal-Montgomery. He brings us Facebook to show cached stories on poor connections, allow offline commenting:

Facebook [is] testing tweaks to its news feed on mobile that will help...with slower connections, especially on 2G.

Facebook is also enabling users to comment...when they’re offline, bringing [it] in line with the already-existing offline capabilities for liking and sharing.

But beware of unintended consequenses. Abhimanyu Ghoshal has more—Facebook now lets you comment on posts when your phone is offline:

Facebook has been adding features to its mobile apps to improve the experience for users on slow connections.

The company says it’s also...retrieving new stories throughout the day when you’re online. ... It might well chew through your battery life and bandwidth.

Facebook says it’s rolling out these new enhancements ‘over time.’

Let’s go to the horse’s mouth. That’ll be Facebook’s Chris Marra and Alex Sourov—Continuing to build News Feed for all types of connections:

If people's News Feeds aren't loading because of poor internet connections, we can't show them the most relevant stories.

In the past, if you were on a poor internet connection or had no connection, you might need to wait for stories to load. ... We are now testing an update in which we...rank them based on their relevance [and] whether the images for the story are available [so] we can immediately display relevant stories you haven't seen yet.

We’re also testing improvements to keep these stories up to date throughout the day by periodically retrieving new stories when you have a good connection.

You can now also comment on stories you see when you don't have an internet connection.

These changes will help anyone who is on a poor internet connection.

It’s not just about emerging markets. Kathleen Chaykowski brings us Facebook Revamps News Feed To Work Better On Slow Mobile Connections:

The updates were originally intended to make Facebook a more seamless experience...in emerging markets. However, the changes will also affect Android app users in developed countries...for example, users in subways, tunnels or at large events.

The changes could encourage users to spend more time on the app and improve adoption.

Engineering, design and product teams at Facebook make regular trips to emerging markets to speak with users in person...as well as to better understand broader mobile habits.

Facebook started a program in October called 2G Tuesdays, which encourages employees at the social media giant every Tuesday to opt into a simulation of a slow connection for part of the day.

The company said the same changes should come to its iOS app soon.

And of course on an airplane. As Jon Fingas notes—Facebook's News Feed is gentler on your flaky phone connection:

If you want to wish someone a happy birthday while you're stuck on a flight without WiFi, you can.

It's not clear when [the] update will be ready for prime time, but don't be surprised if you start seeing posts even in those moments where you're not even close to having a good signal.

Update: But what’s the big deal, anyway? Sarah Perez explainifies—Facebook Gets An Offline Mode:

The way Facebook’s News Feed was originally designed didn’t take into account how these users would struggle when trying to view new content...over these lagging connections. [But] the News Feed is arguably the most important destination.

[So] the company has devised a way to make the content...appear fresh without forcing users to wait. ... Instead of seeing a spinner while waiting for content to load, they’ll just see posts.

You’ll also now be able to interact with these stories and posts as if you were online.

The move Facebook is making here is notable – and one other[s] should think about mimicking.

As new markets connect they’re skipping the PC era altogether, and instead joining the internet by way of mobile devices. But they will not necessarily have...robust connections.

And Finally...

Chris Marra and Alex Sourov explained all this at F8 earlier in 2015
[A fascinating 30 minute talk, where Sourov also announces the open-source framework]

You have been reading IT Blogwatch by Richi Jennings, who curates the best bloggy bits, finest forums, and weirdest websites… so you don’t have to. Catch the key commentary from around the Web every morning. Hatemail may be directed to @RiCHi or itbw@richi.uk.
Opinions expressed may not represent those of Computerworld. Ask your doctor before reading. Your mileage may vary. E&OE.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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