Facebook goes slooow with ‘2G Tuesdays’

The world’s largest social network starts an internal program to show employees what it’s like to use Facebook in developing countries.

Tuesdays will be a real drag for some Facebook employees.

The social network has launched an internal program called “2G Tuesdays” to give its workers a sense of the very slow Internet connections in developing countries like India and elsewhere in Asia, as well as in Africa.

When Facebook employees log in on a Tuesday, they’ll be asked on their News Feed whether they want to use the slower connection, which lasts for about an hour. That will offer them the opportunity to give feedback to Facebook’s team of emerging-markets engineers on what works and what doesn’t.

For many in the US and other developed nations, it’s easy to take for granted the faster 3G and 4G connections that give us seamless streaming video and easy Internet access. Facebook said people living in underdeveloped countries are coming online at “a staggering rate” using much slower 2G connections, which can take up to two minutes to download a single Web page.

“We need to understand how people use Facebook on different Internet connections in all parts of the world so we can build the best experience for them,” the social network said.

The launch of the program comes about a month after Menlo Park, California-based Facebook renamed its controversial Internet.org website and app as Free Basics. That platform aims to provide Internet access to people worldwide who’ve never had it. In the past year, it’s gone online to more than a billion people in 19 countries.

Critics have charged that the service favors Facebook’s own offerings over those of other content providers. An open letter aimed at CEO Mark Zuckerberg by several organizations in May said the free service violates the concept of Net neutrality by favoring certain content. The organizations also expressed concerns about targeted users being unaware of privacy issues and security risks.

Zuckerberg has said the ultimate goal is to get the two-thirds of the world that’s currently offline onto the Internet. He will likely discuss Free Basics during a town hall meeting Wednesday in India.

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