Facebook aims for slow-download empathy with 2G Tuesdays

Company employees can see what it's like for mobile users to access the Internet in emerging markets

Slow binary snail.
Credit: Thinkstock

Facebook wants its employees to understand the pain of a slow, really slow, connection.

On Tuesdays, Facebook employees can opt in to use a slower mobile Internet connection to give them a better understanding – and a good dose of empathy – for users in emerging markets saddled with slow network speeds.

Called "2G Tuesdays," the program is set up to ask employees, on their Facebook news feeds, if they want to use the slower connection. Of course, the company still wants its employees to be productive so the experiment only lasts for an hour.

Most smartphones today use 3G or 4G connections, enabling them to quickly download pages and stream video without interruptions or bobbles. In comparison, a 2G connection might mean it takes a minute or two to download a single web page.

"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 wrote in an email to Computerworld. "But on the lower end of 2G networks, it can take about two minutes to download a webpage. We need to understand how people use Facebook in different Internet connections in all parts of the world so we can build the best experience for them."

She made it clear that the program is voluntary but should offer a good lesson.

"We hope this will help us understand how people are using Facebook on slower connections, so we can build a better product for all of the people using it," she added.

For the past few years, Facebook has been focused on bringing Internet connectivity to people without access through its Free Basics project.

Free Basics, formerly known as Internet.org, started out as an effort to bring Internet connectivity to the two-thirds of the world's population, or about 5 billion people, that don't have access.

Last month, the company said the program already has brought access to 1 billion people across Asia, Africa and Latin America.

This story, "Facebook aims for slow-download empathy with 2G Tuesdays" was originally published by Computerworld.

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