Popular Pays raises $3.1M in new funding to connect marketers and creators

How can Popular Pays stand out in the influencer marketing crowd? The key, according to co-founder Corbett Drummey, is to focus on content.

The approach seems to have convinced investors, with Popular Pays announcing that it has raised an additional $3.1 million, which it rolled up with the $2 million it raised after participating in Y Combinator into a $5.2 million Series A. The round was led by GoAhead VC with participation from Pallasite Ventures and Hyde Park Angels.

Drummey told me that when he started Popular Pays, he assumed that the main value the service could provide was connecting marketers with social media influencers to promote their brands and products. That wasn’t entirely wrong, but he said, “The real value of what we’re doing is in the content itself. Brands realized that, too — they wanted the impressions, but they were staying for the content.”

After all, brands need an increasing amount of videos, photos and blog posts if they’re going to keep posting and engaging online, a trend that’s only going to increase as social media shifts toward more Snapchat Stories-style formats.

To be clear, Popular Pays hasn’t abandoned the influencer marketing model entirely. Drummey said most of the company’s campaigns involve a combination of generating content for a brand and publishing promotional messages on users’ accounts.

However, he said the company has switched from calling those users influencers — instead, it calls them creators, to reflect the fact that for many of them, “Their value isn’t necessarily that they’re famous or a celebrity, but that they’re professional content creators.”

Drummey also noted that Popular Pays offers tools that help marketers manage many creators at once (hundreds, in the case of some campaigns), and to A/B test the content that they produce. And the company is expanding the way it makes money by licensing the technology to other businesses and also working with resellers — in fact, he said resellers already account for nearly one-third of the company’s revenue.

Related:

  • No Related Posts

Postepic is an app for elegantly sharing book quotes

It’s fair to say the smartphone camera has become the digital tool of most use, rendering the average person’s camera roll essentially a memory buffer where carefully composed photographs rub up against snaps of receipts, funny stuff you saw on the street and fancied sharing with friends, and, sometimes, snippets of text you came across in a (paper) book and wanted to make a note of. Snapping a photo in that moment is a stand in for the lack of real-world copy and paste.

And it’s the latter kind of photo (text quotations) that the founders of smartphone app Postepic want to liberate from this unstructured jumble of visual data. Indeed, the first version of the app, released last year as a bootstrapping side-project by a bunch of book-loving friends after they graduated from university in Poland, was just a basic way for them to organize and share photos of the quotations they had cluttering their camera rolls.

“We started this project as we wanted to build something together,” says co-founder Łukasz Konofalski. “We all share a passion for books and were used to sharing quotes and books recommendations between each other. We came across some reports that showed that in Poland in 2016 only half a book will be read on average, so we also wanted to support readership in general by building a bridge between traditional books and mobile world.

“Two things really surprised us when we finally launched it in June 2016: the number of new books worth reading we discovered by simply sharing quotes with each other; and a very warm reception we received from the developers and users communities alike. We have received volumes of valuable feedback from them — and got back to work.”

Version 2 of the app, which launched this week, turns a basic idea into an app that has enough form and function to feel appealing to use. The core additional feature is optical character recognition (OCR) — meaning that instead of uploading and sharing ugly-looking (and hard to read) chunks of raw page text, i.e. in their original photo form, Postepic users can now lift the words off the page, capturing and editing the text and its visual presentation by choosing from a selection of fonts and backgrounds.

The final result presents the text snippet inside a square frame, in a way that’s both easy to read and visibly pleasing (for an example of how utilitarian quotes looked in v1 of the app see the image at the bottom of this post). So Postepic basically lets people turn a favorite quote into an easily shareable unit of digital social currency. Aka, an ‘Instagram for book quotes’.

Last year Facebook added a feature aimed at enhancing the impact of the text statusesbeing shared via its platform, giving users the ability to add colored backgrounds to their text updates to make them more visual. And with so much visual noise being injected into messaging and communications apps, this is hardly surprising. Point is, if you want something to stand out in the age of Instagram Stories (Snapchat Stories, Facebook Stories, WhatsApp Stories… etc etc), it has to look right as the bar for being noticed keeps getting higher.

And with all this visual noise clamoring for our attention, it can feel like the written word is being forgotten or overlooked as people ditch a thousand words in favor of sharing a few photos. Yet a well-turned phrase has the power to be both arresting and enlightening, as well as a hint of greater depths lurking within the full work. So given how much attention has been (and continues to be) lavished on visual forms of communication — from photo filters to selfie lenses to style transfer — there’s arguably space for a clever social sharing app that brings the power of the written word back into focus.

Notably, Apple’s new social video sharing app Clips includes an auto-captioning feature. That’s great for accessibility, but also a reminder that words-as-text still have power and — with a little technological automagic — can be effortlessly edited back into the selfie frame.

Postepic is not the first app to take a shot at wordy snippets, though. Others have tried to build an ‘Instagram for book quotes’ — Quotle, for example — but no one has yet managed to generate significant momentum for the concept. It might be because sharing book snippets is inherently more niche than sharing photos (it’s certainly more bounded, given language barriers). Or because no one has made a slick enough version to attract more mainstream appeal.

Postepic’s v2 app seems to beat Quotle on OCR speed. And because it’s chosen to fix the sharing format as a square its content inherently feels better groomed for social sharing vs the more wordy/text-heavy Quotle. (Although, on the flip side, Postepic’s ease of use and more formulaic format might attract a flood of cliché sharers and drive down the quality of discoverable quotes.) But clearly the founders’ hope is that the uniform sharing format sets Postepic up to benefit from viral uplift if users share watermarked quotes to their larger follower bases on platforms like Instagram (as other apps have). Time will tell if they can make it catch on.

It’s certainly still a fairly unformed thing at this stage, especially given the size and nature of its early adopter community — having only clocked a few thousand downloads for its MVP v1 via a launch on Product Hunt. So even though the team has curated a bunch of quotations themselves to populate the app, you’re more likely to find quotes about scaling a startup than lines from a Shakespearean sonnet. But the core function of v2 has been executed well, within a clear app structure. So it’s super simple to capture, edit and share nicely presented quotes.

Quotation length is capped at 600 characters to ensure readability (and curtail any copyright concerns). Photo backgrounds are also limited to a handful of generic shots and textures offered within the app — at least for now, to avoid users uploading inappropriate imagery, says Konofalski (on that front, remember Secret?). While the OCR tech supports ten languages at this point: Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

The app also lets you tag quotations for subject matter and to add sources (a requirement if you’re making a quote public). Using these labels you can then browse and search quotes, while a favorites feature lets you curate a like-list if you spot quotes shared by others that you like. And if you don’t want to share the quotes you create with the crowd you don’t have to — you can keep individual quotes private and just use the app to create an organized, visual library of the best bits from the books you’re reading.

On the community front, the main feed of Postepic is an assorted jumble for now, showing a stream of non-topic sorted ‘trending’ quotes that Konofalski says turns over every few hours based on what others are liking. Currently there’s no way to follow other users to customize what you see here but that’s down to how nascent the community is. “Our goal is to offer a solution that many content and photo sharing apps use: to give users a choice to pick their favorite genres and authors to adjust their feed,” he says. “Additionally, we want to launch a functionality of following other users, so their posts show up in user’s feed… [but] decided to postpone the functionality… until we reach a community size that would warrant this.”

Postepic does also support social sharing to other platforms, as you’d expect. Though this doesn’t always work as you’d imagine. For example, testing sharing to WhatsApp the app merely created a generic text message with a link to view the quote in Postepic, rather than including the visual form of the quote in a WhatsApp message template (though this is likely a WhatsApp restriction on sharing from a third party app). A basic workaround is obviously to screengrab a quote and upload it manually where you like as a photo. Sharing to Twitter incorporated both the image and a text message with a link when I tested it. Konofalski says that with most “well known apps” it will automatically import/drop an image into the other app.

The app is free to download (and iOS only for now), and while the team says it has a few ideas for potential monetization down the line — such as hosting pre-launch book campaigns, or offering writers a subscription-based platform to connect with fans — the focus for now is fully on building up the size of the community to try to reach a “critical mass” of readers.

Does generation Snapchat read books? I guess they’ll soon find out…

Related:

Spotting sockpuppets with science

If you’ve ever ventured into the comment section of a website or spent any time on forums or social media, you’ve probably encountered sockpuppets, fake accounts controlled by a single person — though it’s possible you didn’t know it at the time. New research may help ID these overeager commentators automatically, which is good news for engendering sane discussion across the web.

Srijan Kumar from the University of Maryland led a team in statistically analyzing everything about sockpuppet accounts, from how they write and interact with each other to the user names with which they’re registered. Their findings were presented this week at the World Wide Web Conference in Perth.

The data came from sites that use Disqus as a commenting platform; the company provided “a complete trace of user activity across nine communities that consisted of 2,897,847 users, 2,129,355 discussions, and 62,744,175 posts.”

They found some aspects of sockpuppets that are interesting on their own, but also helpful in identifying them. The accounts tend to be active around the same time and in the same threads, but seldom start new discussions. Their user names vary widely, but the account emails are often almost identical. And they have certain linguistic characteristics that set them apart from normal users: more “I” and “you,” and generally worse grammar. And they’re mostly focused on current affairs:

By measuring these (and dozens more) factors, the team was able to identify whether an account was a sockpuppet or not about two-thirds of the time — but more interestingly, it was 91 percent accurate in determining whether two accounts belonged to the same “puppetmaster.”

In the illustration at top you see a visualization of the comments at AV Club; blue dots are users and red ones are sockpuppets, which tend to cluster together because of their more frequent interactions. They’re also more central because of their greater activity than ordinary users.

It’s quite a distance from an automated sockpuppet unmasker, but this data (no doubt shared in kind with Disqus in addition to being published) should help moderators and admins make more informed decisions when trying to make sense of the chaos that is online discourse. Soon it might even be safe to read the comments… well, probably not.

If you’re curious about the other aspects of sockpuppetry unearthed by the study, you can check out the full version of the paper here — apart from the statistics, it’s quite readable.

Related:

Peter Fenton is leaving Twitter’s board of directors

Benchmark partner Peter Fenton, who had been on Twitter’s board since 2009, will not seek re-election after his term expires in 2016, according to a new filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

To be sure, Fenton was expected to depart the company’s board once his term expires, according to reports going back to when Twitter was searching for a permanent CEO. Twitter, at the time, was going through a lot of turmoil and big changes at the top were to be expected as the company finally settled on co-founder Jack Dorsey as its new CEO.

“Peter Fenton, whose term expires at the upcoming annual meeting of stockholders, will not stand for re-election at the mutual agreement of the Board and Mr. Fenton,” the company said in the filing. “The Company and the Board are grateful to Mr. Fenton for his years of service.”

Since then, Twitter has added former Facebook CTO Bret Taylor to its board and former Googler Omid Kordestani. With Twitter in peril, all eyes were searching for major changes at the top, and with Dorsey came multiple rounds of layoffs. But since then, Twitter still has seemingly not righted the ship.

Also in the filing: Former CFO and now COO Anthony Noto received compensation of $23.8 million in 2016. Noto took over as COO of the company in November last year.

We reached out to Twitter for additional information, and will update the post when we hear back.

Related:

Facebook adds new features to Instant Articles to encourage email sign-ups and Page Likes

Facebook today rolled out an improvement to its Instant Articles feature that now lets publishers include call-to-action units in their articles to better connect with readers, including those that encourage email sign-ups and Page Likes. The company also announced it’s testing two more units for publishers interested in offering free trials of their digital subscriptions and another aimed at promoting the installation of the publisher’s mobile app.

The changes are meant to make Instant Articles more appealing to publishers who want to take advantage of the power of Facebook’s distribution of their content, but who are also concerned how the platform has limited their ability to display the business-critical units they traditionally placed on their websites – like those that tout subscribers or increase reader loyalty, for example.

These features also come shortly after another recent improvement to Instant Articles last month, which allowed publishers to place more ads within each article than before.

The email call-to-action unit lets readers share their email address directly with the publisher on Facebook, in order to receive the email newsletters or other email updates the publisher may offer. Facebook’s advantage here is that it already has users’ email addresses on file, so it can make this sign-up process quicker. Instead of having to type in their email address manually, users can agree to share it with a click, the social network explains.

The unit can also be customized with text and other design options to match the publisher’s branding.

Some publishers have already been testing this unit, including Slate and The Huffington Post. The former noted the unit accounted for 41 percent of email sign-ups over a two-month period. Meanwhile, The Huffington Post said that the unit generated 29 percent of its Morning Email sign-ups over a three-month period, and these subscribers were just as likely to stick around as those it acquired via the web.

The Page Like call-to-action simply places a Like button unit in the article that also shows how many of the reader’s friends already like the Page in question.

Facebook says it’s currently testing the other units – free trials and mobile app installs – with a small group of publishers and partners. App install call-to-action units are very new, having entered into alpha testing as of this week.

The features came about following Facebook’s increased efforts to work more closely with its publisher partners through its Journalism Project. The project has promised a number of other features as well, like the story packages that bundle multiple articles together; journalism courses that teach reporters how to use Facebook tools like Facebook Live; investments in local news; plus PSAs to promote news literacy and features aimed at fighting fake news; among other things.

The fake news issue was also addressed this week – with a new link at the top of the News Feed offering 10 tips on how to spot fake news.

Related:

Facebook Messenger’s AI ‘M’ suggests features to use based on your convos

Write “You owe me $20” and Messenger will suggest you use its payments feature. If someone says “goodbye,” Messenger will recommend a “bye-bye” GIF. That’s how Facebook’s new M Suggestions work.

Facebook’s artificial intelligence assistant will privately interject these recommendations above the redesigned one-line message composer in your Messenger conversations, and your friends won’t see the results unless you approve. M Suggestions roll out to all iOS and Android users in the U.S. today, with more countries coming.

They’re designed to surface all the features buried inside Messenger as it strives to become more than just an SMS replacement. Beyond stickers and payments, M Suggestions also can recommend location sharing, timed reminders, group chat polls and ridesharing options from Lyft and Uber.

The old M learns, the new M helps

You might remember M from when it began testing in 2015. Since then, a small number of users have been allowed to message M any request, which it tries to fulfill, first relying on AI to parse the question and retrieve answers it’s already learned. If it’s stumped, it falls back to a team of human staffers who try to help, and then teach M to do the job by itself next time.

The problem is “it cannot scale to millions of people” says Facebook M product manager Laurent Landowski, who co-founded the natural language processing startup Wit.AI that Facebook acquired.

So now, “The original version of M will continue to help us understand and learn more about . . . what we need to build and what people want.” Essentially, the open-ended M will continue to process requests for a closed set of beta testers so Facebook can determine what tasks its AI can reliably fulfill, and what text indicates what intent. Then it will slowly bring those capabilities over to M Suggestions.

Facebook began testing M Suggestions in December, as noted by BuzzFeed, and The Information reported that the full-fledged M personal assistant would be switching gears to become more of a training ground for Facebook’s AI.

Facebook’s first personal assistant at scale

M Suggestions will open Facebook’s AI to a much wider audience. With the new Messenger composer redesign, many of the buttons for its different features have been collapsed inside an expandable menu, but M Suggestions will help you fish them out.

And rather than apply the same experience to everyone, M will learn individual users’ habits and personalize itself for them. If you always ignore the M Suggestions, you’ll see less of them. Or if you never use its payments feature but constantly send stickers, it’ll just suggest you use the latter.

And if you really hate M, you can use the Messenger settings to mute it entirely or turn off certain kinds of recommendations. Even though it’s only an AI, not a human, some people might be a bit freaked out by Facebook scanning the content of their messages to provide these suggestions.

  1. M-Plans

  2. M-Stickers

  3. M-Poll

  4. M-Location

  5. M-Payments

  6. M-Rides

For now, M Suggestions are focused on Messenger’s internal features. But the inclusion of the Lyft and Uber ride-hailing option signal it could have bigger ambitions for recommending outside developer services. Facebook currently has a big issue with bot discovery, having launched the automated messaging agents last year without an easy way to find ones to use. M Suggestions could potentially evolve to recommend bots for you to pull into your conversations.

While there are plenty of problems M could one day help you solve, for now it’s dealing with one of Facebook’s longest-running issues: There are more features than you know what to do with.

Related:

One in five Facebook videos is Live as it seizes the verb

While most people still aren’t sure what to broadcast, and some have misused the format for unsavory or criminal purposes, Facebook says one-fifth of the videos shared on its network are now Live videos. It’s also seen the Live broadcasting daily watch time grow 4X in the past year, according to Facebook’s head of video, Fidji Simo.

This shows Facebook’s efforts to own the verb “Live” are paying off.

Live streaming didn’t blow up like it seemed it would in 2015, when Meerkat rekindled the market, Twitter dove in with Periscope and Facebook began testing Live. Now, after middling usage, $100 million in payments to broadcasters, a massive physical advertising campaign and problems with live-streamed violence, some are questioning Mark Zuckerberg’s decision to put the company on lockdown to rapidly launch the feature.

But it wasn’t worth the risk for Facebook to wait and see. If live streaming became popular, Facebook needed to own the verb “Live” — to be the first tool people thought of when they saw something worth broadcasting.

Social apps live and die by network effect. The first one to do a feature the right way can roll up a snowball of user traction.

Facebook sat back and watched Snapchat turn into a juggernaut with its Stories feature. Failing to acquire it with what would look like a low-ball offer, Facebook is now late to the Stories game and desperately trying to play catch up.

After the press pounced on Meerkat in February 2015, Twitter launched its acquisition, Periscope. Facebook saw the potential nightmare of the world “Periscoping” weddings, parties, sporting events and breaking-news moments. After largely vanquishing Twitter in terms of scale, it didn’t want it making a comeback on mobile video. Nor did Facebook want Snapchat to swoop in with a “cool” take on live streaming.

So after some rapid development, Facebook launched the first tests of Live with celebrities in August 2015, and expanded it to all U.S. iPhone users in January. Soon, it had discovered a critical stat, according to The Wall Street Journal: 75 percent of users were high school or college kids. Live was a chance to attract the youth demographic and original-content sharing Facebook was losing to Snapchat.

Mark Zuckerberg decided to reallocate resources to Live and put more than 100 employees on “lockdown” building it for all Facebook users. It would go on to buy an international blitz of billboards, bus stops and commercials to teach people how and when to go Live — an attempt to cement its grip on the verb.

The company knew there might be objectionable-content troubles, but underestimated their scope. There have been dozens of instances of violence and suicides on Live that should have been censored. Meanwhile, Facebook has mistakenly censored some graphic but newsworthy videos, like the aftermath of the police shooting of Philando Castile.

But if Facebook can entrench itself as the place for Live broadcasts, it seems to believe it can solve the rest of the content quality and safety issues over time. Move fast and break things is still Facebook’s philosophy, even if it’s tried to distance itself from the phrase.

Related:

Facebook puts link to 10 tips for spotting ‘false news’ atop feed

Today Facebook begins fighting misinformation with news literacy education, in addition to product features. This week, users in 14 countries, including the U.S., will see an alert above the News Feed several times over the next few days that links them to Facebook’s Help Center where they can read “Tips to Spot False News.” Written while working with news standards nonprofit First Draft, these tips include being skeptical of sensational headlines and checking for phony URLs.

Notably, Facebook is labeling the scourge “false news” instead of the more popular term “fake news.” The company tells me this is because “fake news” has taken on a life of its own, and “false news” more accurately communicates that it’s talking about intentionally false content that tries to be confused with legitimate news. After all, Donald Trump has begun labeling as “fake news” any opinions or facts with which he disagrees.

Facebook VP of News Feed Adam Mosseri writes “It’s not a new phenomenon, and all of us — tech companies, media companies, newsrooms, teachers — have a responsibility to do our part in addressing it.”

Unfortunately, Facebook could have made these tips much easier to consume and more likely to be read if it had just hosted them inside the News Feed alert itself. By instead linking out to the Help Center, the alert is likely to be repeatedly ignored by some, while others decline to wait for an outside site to load.

The alert at the top of the News Feed links out to the Facebook Help Center where users can read 10 tips for spotting false news

Here’s the list of tips users will find if they click through the link:

  1. Be skeptical of headlines. False news stories often have catchy headlines in all caps with exclamation points. If shocking claims in the headline sound unbelievable, they probably are.
  2. Look closely at the URL. A phony or look-alike URL may be a warning sign of false news. Many false news sites mimic authentic news sources by making small changes to the URL. You can go to the site and compare the URL to established sources.
  3. Investigate the source. Ensure that the story is written by a source that you trust with a reputation for accuracy. If the story comes from an unfamiliar organization, check their “About” section to learn more.
  4. Watch for unusual formatting. Many false news sites have misspellings or awkward layouts. Read carefully if you see these signs.
  5. Consider the photos. False news stories often contain manipulated images or videos. Sometimes the photo may be authentic, but taken out of context. You can search for the photo or image to verify where it came from.
  6. Inspect the dates. False news stories may contain timelines that make no sense, or event dates that have been altered.
  7. Check the evidence. Check the author’s sources to confirm that they are accurate. Lack of evidence or reliance on unnamed experts may indicate a false news story.
  8. Look at other reports. If no other news source is reporting the same story, it may indicate that the story is false. If the story is reported by multiple sources you trust, it’s more likely to be true.
  9. Is the story a joke? Sometimes false news stories can be hard to distinguish from humor or satire. Check whether the source is known for parody, and whether the story’s details and tone suggest it may be just for fun.
  10. Some stories are intentionally false. Think critically about the stories you read, and only share news that you know to be credible.

The tips are helpful and sensible, but the unfortunate fact is that they put a ton of faith in Facebook’s 1.8 billion users to exert lots of cognitive effort to detect false news.

Facebook came into this problem because of the poor news literacy, skepticism and proactive research behavior patterns of the modern news reader. According to studies, more than half of U.S. adults get their news from social media rather than directly from trusted sources, the majority of students can’t reliably distinguish fake news from real news and 20 percent of users on social media say that they’ve changed a social or political stance because of social media.

That’s why it’s also tried to take matters into its own hands with product changes and other projects, like working with outside fact checkers to label disputed news stories with warnings in the News Feed. It’s also provided a special option for flagging false news stories, down-ranked suspicious stories, began detecting and blocking false news spammers, denied false news publishers the ability to buy Facebook ads and funded the $14 million News Integrity Initiative.

But in the end it will fall to users to make up their own minds about what’s real and fake. And it’s tough to trust that any list of tips will suddenly make them strong fact checkers.

Related:

Instagram Head of Product Kevin Weil to talk shop at Disrupt NY

Instagram is killing it. The photo-sharing behemoth has topped 600 million users, with the most recent 100 million joining in the last year. Plus, the company now has more than 1 million active advertisers, building on Facebook’s already-dominant advertising business.

But there is also a question of whether Instagram can continue iterating in a unique way? Or if it even needs to?

Instagram took a page out of the Snapchat playbook with Instagram Stories, and it appears to be working out quite well for them. And though consumers were initially outraged by the launch of an algorithmic Instagram timeline, this also seems to be working out just fine for the company.

When I sit down with Kevin Weil on stage at Disrupt NY, we’ll be talking about all of this and much more.

Weil oversees consumer and monetization products at Instagram, which puts him in the perfect position to get into the nitty gritty of both the outward-facing product and the business.

His bio:

Kevin Weil is the Head of Product at Instagram, overseeing consumer and monetization products. Prior to Instagram, Kevin was the SVP of Product at Twitter, overseeing product development and design across Twitter’s consumer and ad products, as well as Vine and Periscope. Between 2010 and 2014, he led product development for Twitter’s advertising platform, as well as the development of Fabric. Before joining Twitter in 2009, he was the first employee at web media startup Cooliris, working in user growth and analytics. He also worked worked at municipal wireless network provider Tropos Networks, Microsoft Research, and in a past life as a Physics Ph.D. Student, at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center. Kevin graduated summa cum laude from Harvard University with a B.A. In Mathematics and Physics, and holds an M.S. in physics from Stanford.

We can’t wait to hang with Weil on stage, and we hope you’re as excited as we are.

You can grab tickets to Disrupt NY, going down in Manhattan from May 15 to May 17, right here.

See you soon!

Sponsors make TechCrunch events possible. If you’re interested in learning more about sponsorships with TechCrunch, shoot an email to sponsors@techcrunch.com.

Related:

Twitter launches a ‘lite’ mobile web app that’s optimized for emerging markets

Twitter has taken the wraps off a new data-optimized version of its service that it hopes will be a hit among emerging.

It’s called Twitter Lite and, unlike similar ‘Lite’ apps from Facebook and others, it is browser-based — living at mobile.twitter.com. It is essentially a data-optimized version of the regular Twitter service that, the company said, loads fast and will work well on limited internet connections. It added that, already, “hundreds of millions” visit the mobile app each month but now it wants to expand that reach.

A web app isn’t as powerful as a native app, but Twitter said it had opted for this approach because it believes it can make its service accessible to new users. “It works on most smartphones and tablets without an App Store or Google Play account. You won’t need an email account or credit card either,” it said.

The app also comes in at less than 1MB — making it well-sized for cheaper handset that don’t have a lot of storage — while on Android phones it includes notifications and alerts, offline access and the potential for a home screen app.

Twitter Lite is a faster, data friendly way for people to use Twitter to see what’s happening in the world.

? https://t.co/AIUgyCAFj0pic.twitter.com/9EIG7pgK6O

— Twitter (@Twitter) April 6, 2017

Twitter hasn’t had anything like the success in emerging markets as Facebook. Beyond a monthly user base of 1.86 billion, Facebook’s revamped Lite app alone counts 200 million users just two years after its launch. That makes it the company’s fastest growing service, and it isn’t all that far from Twitter’s entire userbase, which stands at 319 million.

India, in particular, is a place where Twitter has struggled. India’s online population is tipped to reach 450 million-465 million people by June 2017, according to a recent report co-authored by the Internet and Mobile Association of India. And yet reports have suggested that less than 20 percent of India-based social network users are on Twitter.

India is very much the target here. Twitter said it has agreed to a partnership with Vodafone, which will see the operator — soon to be India’s largest based on subscribers — “promote” the service to its 177 million customers.

Interestingly, Twitter wants to sell its Lite app as a way to get updates and alerts on the go.

“No matter where you are in the world, we want to make Twitter the best way for you to get real-time updates on news, sports, entertainment, politics, and other topics that matter most to you,” it added.

The real question is why Twitter Lite has taken so long to be released?

The service was developed last year by a team in India alongside a messaging app for emerging markets, according to a report from BuzzFeed, but it appeared to have been canned. TechCrunch first wrote about the potential for Twitter Lite back in 2009, when Facebook’s first version of its Lite app was announced, so today’s introduction is long, long overdue.

Featured Image: Bryce Durbin

Related: