Instagram, the picture-focused network of food photographers and budding models, recently learned a new trick: The ability to work offline. At the F8 developer conference in San Jose, California, on Tuesday, parent company Facebook announced an update that will enable browsing on Instagram without the need for an internet connection.
Currently, Instagram downloads images on the fly — when you launch the app on your phone, tablet, or computer, it queries Facebook’s servers for new content. The upgraded Instagram app, by comparison, taps a cache — if you open a section (like your feed, Explore, or Instagram profiles) of the app, it will store the newest photos in that section on your device. Next time you connect to the internet, that section will update automatically.
Instagram’s offline mode goes further still. You can compose comments, like and save photos, and follow and unfollow profiles — the app will queue those actions and perform them next time you connect to the internet.
Facebook said 80 percent of its users are outside the U.S. and many lack access to a stable internet connection. It thinks offline features could help Instagram grow in developing nations where data connections are cost prohibitive — or non-existent.
It’s approach the social network took last year when it released a slimmed-down version of the Facebook app — Facebook Lite for low-powered devices. It shot past 200 million users in less than a year.
Separately, Facebook’s Internet.org platform seeks to provide users in Asia, Latin America, and Africa access to the web, with a particular focus on job listings, healthcare, and education. Facebook said that as of November, the free connectivity program reaches more than 40 million people.
Facebook isn’t the only one investing heavily in developing markets.
This year, Twitter debuted Twitter Lite, a mobile web app designed to minimize data usage and load quickly on slower connections. A new data saver mode further reduces the amount of mobile data used.
At events in India and Brazil over the past two years, Google launched versions of its existing services tailored to internet-constrained regions. Chrome can store webpages so you can view them without Wi-Fi. The Google Search app on Android queues up searches when you don’t have a connection, and automatically alerts you with results when a connection comes back online. Google Play Music uses artificial intelligence to cache music it believes you will like. And YouTube in India lets viewers download videos at night, when data costs are cheaper, and share clips via Bluetooth.
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