The iPhone is so popular among Facebook employees that Facebook chief product officer Chris Cox is effectively forcing some employees to switch over to Android, Cade Metz of Wired reports. The impetus behind the decree is that the social networking giant doesn’t want its popular software to only be seen and used through the prism of a high-end iPhone.
“I am mandating a switch of a whole bunch of my team over to Android, just because people, when left up to their own devices, will often prefer an iPhone,” Cox told reporters late last week. The goal for Facebook developers, Cox added, is “that they can be reporting bugs and living in the same experience that most Facebook users experience today.”
With Facebook angling to enter into any number of emerging markets, it’s becoming increasingly important for the company to tailor its software for users who aren’t necessarily using the fastest and most advanced smartphones on the market. Indeed, many of the markets where Facebook hopes to make inroads are in developing countries where Internet speeds are slow and older devices are commonplace.
… The Android directive shows just how important these markets have become to the future of Facebook. To keep growing, after reaching so many of today’s Internet users, Facebook must get its social network into the hands of all the people who are only just coming online—or have yet to come online. And to do that, it must understand how things work far from the bubble that is Silicon Valley.
Underscoring the seriousness with which Facebook plans to accommodate all users, the company last week also announced a new initiative dubbed 2G Tuesdays where employees, for one hour every Tuesday, will be able to limit their connectivity to 2G speeds, all in an effort to give employees an “opportunity to experience for themselves the slow mobile Internet speeds found in developing countries.”
“People are coming online at a fast rate in emerging markets,” Facebook product manager Chris Marra wrote in a blog post last week. “In most cases, they are doing so on mobile via 2G connections. But on a typical 2G network, it can take several minutes to download a webpage. That doesn’t make for a great experience when sharing content with friends and family. To build for a global audience like ours, we know that we need to design features that work seamlessly even on a 2G network.”
“We hope this will help us understand how people with 2G connectivity use our product,” Marra later added, “so we can address issues and pain points in future builds.”