Facebook is constantly testing ways to make its experience smoother — and addictive — for users, and wants to address users in developing markets who may be using its app on shaky connections.
The company said it’s now testing an update to its News Feed on Android devices, where it will take previously downloaded and unread items and push them to the top of the stream of posts you see from friends.
The cached items will still be displayed by relevance, and will replace the spinning icon that is typically displayed as the user waits for new posts to load. The user gets to view stories that they’ve missed, while new content loads in the background.
This caching behavior will also be extended to interacting with friends’ posts. The app will allow you to comment on posts while offline, and it will post the comment when a connection is next detected. Users can already like and share posts without a connection.
Facebook will test and roll this out to users over time, and it won’t just be limited to those in emerging markets, so users in developed markets will get to benefit from this when they’re stuck with bad connectivity, like in subways and at crowded events.
The choice to test these updates on Android devices is especially key to Facebook’s growing user base in emerging markets in Asia, many of whom are coming online on slower mobile connections and on Android devices.
“People are coming online at a staggering rate in emerging markets,” the company said in its blog post, noting that mobile connectivity in many of those parts remains at 2G standards.
Facebook has well over a billion users now, and its already strong base in Asia continues to grow quickly. Facebook told Mashable it had 79 million monthly active users in Indonesia and 47 million in the Philippines, as of September. This represents an 18% growth for Indonesia and a 46% growth for the Philippines compared to the year before.
Facebook has been working to make its experience better for emerging markets. This particular project, for instance, has been in the works since at least October, where the company put out a preliminary but fairly similar blog post describing how it would cache content offline to make the experience better for people on spotty connections.
It also developed a “Network Connection Class”, an open source project to help the app determine a user’s connection quality and adjust the News Feed’s cached items accordingly.
In January this year, Facebook rolled out Facebook Lite, a lightweight Android version of the full app, to eight countries: Bangladesh, Nepal, Nigeria, South Africa, Sudan, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Zimbabwe.