Instagram Lite reboot squeezes the app into a 2MB package

It's being released to Android devices in 170 countries from today.

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Instagram Lite (2021)
Facebook / Instagram

Facebook is today relaunching Instagram Lite, a stripped-down version of the image-sharing app designed for users in emerging markets. Developed by Facebook’s team in Tel Aviv, the birthplace of Facebook Lite and Messenger Lite, the app’s package size is just 2MB. The team said that the focus, like with the other launches, was on users whose smartphones lack storage capacity, processing power and reliable data. In order to reach that size, the app focuses on images, video and messaging, ditching other features and flourishes that fade into the background on the full-fat version of the app.

Instagram Lite still has the main feed, as well as Stories — the ephemeral messaging feature cribbed from Snapchat — but not IG Live or Shopping. Engineering manager Gal Zellermayer said that, as well as live filters and other AR effects that wouldn’t work on low-power devices, animations have been edited down. He cited the example of the cube animation seen when swiping between different users’ Stories, a very processor and data-intensive transition that didn’t work well on older devices, which has been removed. Zellermayer added that a lot of extra compression work is handled on the server side to relieve the burden off the device itself.

Michelle Lourie, product manager, explained that there were a number of additional UI tweaks to better suit “new digital users.” This included ditching a trash can to represent a delete icon, in favor of an X, which testers found made more sense. In addition, Lourie said that GIFs and Stickers remain part of the app since, unlike AR filters, they were space efficient while remaining fun. Lourie added that the team is currently working on Dark Mode, a feature that users were requesting long before the app was released.

The first version of Instagram Lite was little more than a wrapper around a web app. Facebook shut it down that version in May 2020, and at the time said that it was working on a new version with better on-device support. This new edition has been in testing in several territories already, but is today rolling out to Google Play in 170 countries around the world.

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