YouTube Follows Facebook, Goes Feather Lite

Working in the UK, US, or anywhere in the ‘developed’ world, it’s easy to forget that not everyone has the sort of things that we often take for granted.

I’m not talking about things such as clean water, access to healthcare or any of the things that billions of people are denied, but about quick & reliable internet connections. But with all the talk of how the web is taking over the world, you might be forgiven for thinking that everyone has the sort of broadband that we have grown so accustomed to.

The launch by YouTube of Feather, a system designed, in their own words, to:

serve YouTube video watch pages with the lowest latency possible…by severely limiting the features available to the viewer and making use of advanced web techniques for reducing the total amount of bytes downloaded by the browser.

shows that Google are all too aware that in places like India, China and large parts of Africa, the web is still stuck in a 90s dial-up nightmare (slide 21).

They’re not alone either; last year Facebook launched Facebook Lite. Many saw this as an attempt to ‘do a Twitter’, but in fact it was nothing of the sort. It was actually an update designed to allow those who live in parts of the world where broadband penetration is miniscule, to use the site, which in its full form, can demand massive bandwidth.

Whilst there might be 1.5 billion people online, many of those live in areas that simply don’t have the sort of infrastructure to handle large files, or websites, such as YouTube & Facebook, which really require broadband to work in their full format.

And whilst many of those areas are starting to move to broadband, it may take some time, and in the meantime many areas will be stuck with dial-up, or rely on mobile access (which also struggles to properly replicate the sort of functionality that broadband powered website possess), Facebook & Google don’t want to wait.

They need to get in and build an audience base now if they hope to achieve the same sort of dominance that they have in the high-speed world and making their services as lite as a feather is the perfect way to do so.

Feather photo by tibchris on flickr.

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