Facebook announced the debut of a free mobile site called 0.facebook.com. A kind of replacement for the now spiked Facebook Lite, 0 “includes all of the key features of Facebook but is optimized for speed,” according to Sid Murlidhar, Program Manager for Facebook Mobile.

Its initial rollout is through 50 mobile operators in 45 countries, mostly developing countries. This is an exciting outreach to frequently neglected and mobile-dependent information cultures around the world.

Of greatest interest is the fact that, except for viewing photos, there are no data charges for using this site. Additionally, although some of the initial countries are fairly wealthy ones – Austria and Hong Kong for instance, the overwhelming majority of places where 0 is debuting are developing countries.

As one of our co-editors remarked, “It’s a move to bring social networking, which is revolutionary technology, to the developing world, at no cost (except perhaps your privacy!).”

Despite our skepticism, it is undeniable that this is both a much-needed and smart move. Lacking much of the telecommunications infrastructure of the developed world, developing nations are very mobile-focused. It is also smart business, as people tend to stick to what they know and if they know Facebook it will be harder for other social media companies to reclaim that lost ground.

Facebook has deals with 200 mobile operators in 80 countries, so possibly 0 will extend to most or all of those. But those on deck include Australia, El Salvador, France, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Qatar, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, United Kingom, Cameroon and Guinea.

curt hopkins

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