What does the new Twitter Lite have in store?

By Mayookh Barua

Social networking service Twitter launched a new, data friendly mobile service called Twitter Lite, in partnership with Vodafone, at an event on Thursday. This browser-based version of the platform has been launched in India first as a part of the company’s plan to expand beyond the current user base. Twitter also plans to go ahead with providing video content to attract more Indian consumers.

Mr Arvinder Gujral, Twitter APAC Senior Director of Business Development, said that the new offering is aimed at markets like India that face challenges in terms of connectivity.

Salient features of the service

Twitter Lite promises a mobile web experience that loads 30 percent faster, reduces data usage by 70 percent and takes up less than 1 MB on mobile devices – an ambitious attempt to compensate for the bandwidth issues that the country suffers from. The new version will also include Indian languages including Hindi, Bengali, Kannada, Marathi and Gujarati. It is also set to roll out in countries like Philippines and Indonesia in an attempt to target a greater global audience. Twitter, which allows users to engage with each other using 140 characters, is also betting heavily on visual content like emojis and videos.

Maya Hari, who is Twitter’s Managing Director for the Asia-Pacific region, explained the importance of making the platform easily available to more users in India since the company’s market in the country is within its top five global markets in terms of consumers.

Problems faced by the company

These strategies come after a roller-coaster year for the microblogging company, which witnessed a global restructuring programme leading to high-profile exits like that of Twitter India head Rishi Jaitly and a nine percent cut in global jobs that affected around 300 employees. There have also been reports of decreasing growth due to a shrinking user base along with cases of cyber bullying.

However, Ms Hari made it clear that the company is concentrating on four broad topics which include sports, entertainment, the government and news in order to make the user experience more enriching and curated to their preferences.

Will the new model serve its purpose?

It is uncertain whether this model will attract a wider user base given that Twitter has not addressed other issues that might lead to unpopularity amongst users. The increase in accessibility might just end up benefitting existing users without drawing new users to the service. Perhaps, the 140 character restriction coupled with the lack of engagement with other sources of information besides celebrity gossip is why Twitter is an unsavoury experience for many.

Nevertheless, Maya Hari says – “For 2017, the strategy is heavily anchored around being able to connect with consumers who love videos and advertisers who can bring video content.” Twitter has also partnered with Vodafone to provide a customised timeline of top cricket related tweets to 200 million subscribers throughout the T20 season, ensuring a consistent focus on the subcontinent’s tendencies, which can help the company establish a stronger presence in the region.

Featured image source: Scroll