Twitter today has nearly four times as many monthly active users outside the U.S. as it does in its home market — 260 million versus 68 million — and this week it quietly launched a new app in an effort to boost those numbers further.
The social network is testing a Android app for Twitter Lite, a native app version of a mobile web site Twitter launched earlier this year that uses less mobile data to work.
The lighter data load means that the app is especially useful for emerging markets where data networks are often slower and more expensive for consumers to use.
Twitter has confirmed to us that the app is being run currently in test mode in the Philippines (which is where the Twitter user above is located). There, it appears as a separate app in the Google Play Store for devices running Android 5.0 and up; has language support both for English and Filipino; and is usable on 2G and 3G networks.
“The test of the Twitter Lite app in the Google Play Store in the Philippines is another opportunity to increase the availability of Twitter in this market,” said a Twitter spokesperson. “The Philippines market has slow mobile networks and expensive data plans, while mobile devices with limited storage are still very popular there. Twitter Lite helps to overcome these barriers to usage for Twitter in the Philippines.”
He further described the app as “an experiment” and that Twitter was still evaluating whether to launch it in further markets.
The app itself appears to have many of the same basic functions of the main Twitter apps — “breaking news, sports scores, and entertainment updates. Interact with brands and your government, easily market your business, quickly provide or receive customer service” and options to view your Timeline, Notifications, the Explore tab, Messages and to customise your profile.
But alongside these are a few tweaks that will make it less of a data hog for users: for example, you can switch to a media-free mode to be able to select specific images and videos for downloading.
Indeed, it’s details like this that point to why Twitter expanded the Lite version to apps in the first place: not only do people like to use apps, but the platform gives Twitter a wider set of tools to tinker with the user experience further.
Giving users the option of which media they would like to actually see is a pretty crucial feature for emerging markets.
Twitter has over recent years reoriented itself as a media company, for example cutting deals to livestream events in hopes of capturing more audience and advertising alongside that.
But that full version of the service would be potentially unusable (and probably frustrating) as a result for many people in emerging markets, so Twitter has taken the decision to show these users less in hopes of getting them to use the service more — and to better monetize them on more localized terms.