Instagram Lite, the two-year-old version of the Instagram app aimed at emerging markets, has quietly disappeared. The previously highly ranked app vanished from the Google Play charts on April 13 in the countries where it was active, including Kenya, Mexico, Peru and the Philippines. Existing Instagram Lite users have been directed to the main Instagram app via a message that claimed "Instagram Lite is No Longer Supported."
Android Police first reported the news of Instagram Lite's shutdown. TechCrunch has since confirmed details of the app's removal with Instagram parent, Facebook.
"We are rolling back the test of the Instagram Lite app, a Facebook spokesperson said. "You can start using the latest version of Instagram instead to connect with the people and things you love," they noted.
Instagram Lite launched on Google Play in June 2018 without fanfare. Like other "Lite"-branded apps on the market, Instagram Lite's goal was to offer a smaller download that takes up less space on a mobile device -- a feature that specifically caters to users in emerging markets, where storage space is a concern. At launch, the "Lite" version of Instagram was 573 kilobytes, or roughly 1/55th the size of Instagram's then 32-megabyte application.
Like Instagram, the slimmed-down Instagram Lite app allowed users to filter and post photos to a feed or to Stories, and to browse the Explore page for more content. However, it lacked the option to post videos or direct-message friends upon arrival.
On June 28, 2018, Mexico was the first market to receive Instagram Lite. It also accounted for the majority -- 62% -- of its total installs. To date, Instagram Lite was downloaded approximately 4.4 million times in Mexico, according to data from Sensor Tower, shared with TechCrunch . The second largest market was the Philippines, with 14% of installs. Kenya and Peru trailed, with 12.5% and 12% of installs, respectively.
Due to demand for "Lite" applications in these regions, Instagram Lite was able to climb to the top of Google Play's charts. The app was ranked No. 8 in Kenya in the "Social" category on Google Play, as well as No. 12 in Peru, No. 15 in Mexico and No. 22 in the Philippines.
On April 15, it vanished from the charts, indicating a removal in those regions, which the company has now confirmed.
While it's unusual to pull an app entirely when an update is planned, we understand that's what Facebook has in store for Instagram Lite.
The company -- which has always characterized the app as a "test" -- is planning to take what it has learned over these past years to develop a new version of Instagram Lite. It's unclear how far out that launch may be, but the new version is currently being built.
Instagram Lite was one of a few "Lite" apps that Facebook offers, led by the early launch of Facebook Lite in 2015, followed by Messenger Lite in April 2018. A number of major tech companies also offer apps aimed at emerging markets, often dubbed their "Lite" version, including Uber, Tinder, Spotify, Twitter and others. Google does the same under the "Go" brand.
But unlike many of these efforts, Instagram Lite had not yet reached some of the larger emerging markets these apps tend to target, like India, Indonesia, Brazil and others. That could change in the future, however.
In the meantime, Lite users are being directed to the main Instagram app. Alternately, they can use Instagram via the web from their phone.