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While Facebook continues to be roiled by unsettling revelations about its privacy practices, the show must go on. Its family of mobile apps now includes Facebook itself, Facebook Messenger (which it clearly wants the world to think of as just "Messenger"), Facebook Messenger Lite, Facebook Messenger Kids, WhatsApp, and Instagram -- and those are just the social platforms. The Google Play Store counts 18 apps made by Facebook itself, separately from whatever its subsidiaries WhatsApp and Instagram are up to.

If you live in the United States, you might not be familiar with Facebook Messenger Lite . It's designed for regions of the world where internet connections can be slower and less reliable.

SEE: Will the redesigned Facebook Messenger recapture its glory?

But due to regular Facebook Messenger getting a reputation for being as battery-hungry and feature-bloated as the Facebook app itself, the company brought Facebook Messenger Lite to the US, Canada, and the UK last summer. It's about a quarter of the size as Facebook Messenger, though as the "Lite" part implies, it remains deliberately stripped down for speed. Even then, only the Android version of the Lite variant is available in the US. The iOS version remains in the shadows.

Demand for the regular app's features remains, though, and Facebook's engineers have worked diligently to import more doodads. A recent big addition was video chat, and now the company is following up with animated GIFs, contact personalization, and the ability to send files.

Facebook says that this isn't making the app much bigger, though download sizes were never really the issue. The issue is how much data the app consumes during use, and transmitting animated GIFs might not help there. But Facebook's determined that it's a popular feature that it needs to have to remain competitive in the chat space, and they may have a point.

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To keep the download size compact, though, you'll need to use the GIFs that are built into third-party virtual keyboards, like Google's GBoard (Android, iOS). Facebook Messenger Lite itself won't be providing those files, because GIFs are notoriously large due to inherently minimal optimization.

You can also now color-code individual conversations for easier identification and assign specific emojis to specific Facebook friends. Both chat participants will see each other's customizations instantly, so choose your emojis wisely.

Last but not least, you can now send and receive files through the app. Just tap the "+" button, choose what you want to share, and press the Send button.

Takeaways

  • Facebook Messenger Lite has just added support for animated GIFs, sending and receiving files, and color coordinating conversations.
  • To actually use GIFs in the app, you must pull from the GIF library of a third-party virtual keyboard. Facebook Messenger Lite won't be providing any, to keep the app download size small.

Also see

Tom McNamara is a Senior Editor for CNET's Download.com. He mainly covers Windows, mobile and desktop security, games, Google, streaming services, and social media. Tom was also an editor at Maximum PC and IGN, and his work has appeared on CNET, PC Gamer, MSN.com, and Salon.com. He's also unreasonably proud that he's kept the same phone for more than two years.