(Credit: Screenshot: Download.com/Tom McNamara)

Instagram quietly released a streamlined version of its app called Instagram Lite late Wednesday night, apparently targeting developing countries and aligning itself with parent company Facebook, who launched a Facebook Lite app in 2015. Facebook Lite came to the U.S. and other developed countries in March of this year. Instagram's new app is not to be confused with Lite for Instagram, which is made by an unaffiliated third party that is attempting to do the same thing.

SEE: Instagram's new IGTV video app gives creators a YouTube alternative

Instagram Lite is not officially available in the United States, but that sort of thing rarely stops us. After jumping through a few hoops, we were able to get it up and running on a Pixel phone, and some differences jump right out. For example, there doesn't appear to be a way to send a direct message to anyone.

When you tap the profile page of someone you follow, the Message button is absent, replaced by a Following button. Tapping the down arrow also shows us a completely different selection of suggested Instagram accounts to follow. The suggestions in Instagram Lite look more closely related to the account that you're looking at.

(Credit: Screenshot: Download.com/Tom McNamara)

For example, when we go to Terry Crews' page in the regular app and check our suggestions, we see Dwayne Johnson, Chris Pratt, Samuel L. Jackson, Wesley Snipes, and other high-level Hollywood celebrities. But in the Instagram Lite app, our suggestions prioritize actors from Brooklyn Nine-Nine, a comedy show in which Crews stars. (Brooklyn Nine-Nine was canceled by Fox last month after a five-season run, but it was picked up by NBC the very next day.)

Overall, Instagram Lite's suggestions look a lot more targeted to what page you're looking at, rather than how many followers a person has or what kind of industry they're in.

Lite also doesn't have Instagram TV. At least, not yet. When you tap the camera icon, one of the menu items says "Video Coming Soon," but this is actually a reference to app's own ability to record video, rather than its support for IGTV content. Instagram Lite's photo-taking tool has no video recording option or support for stickers or filters. It also lacks Live, Boomerang, Superzoom, Focus, Rewind, and all the other tools you usually see at the bottom of the screen when using Instagram's built-in camera app.

(Credit: Screenshot: Download.com/Tom McNamara)

But that's not to say that Instagram Lite can't stream video -- the Stories section remains intact, with short clips and a rotation of images from the people you follow. You just can't use Lite to create or share videos of your own.

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Picking out images on your phone to share on IG is also simplified in Instagram Lite. Whereas the regular app has its own image picker tool, Lite uses your phone's file browser instead. While this makes the app lighter, Android's file browser doesn't let you select multiple images at once. Instagram Lite's image upload tool also doesn't integrate with Layout, which allows you to stitch photos together into one larger image.

The takeaways

  1. Because of the lack of video recording, the stripped-down camera, and the streamlined image gallery selection, Instagram Lite feels aimed at content consumption, rather than content creation. However, the app says that video is coming soon. We'll have to see if it comes in the form of Instagram's usual short clips, or if there will be support for IGTV, which can do videos up to one hour long. Given how simplified Instagram Lite is, short clips are more likely.
  2. Instagram Lite's suggestions for people to follow looks like the next step for that feature. We found it much better at detecting user interests, and that kind of personalization tends to increase user engagement -- a perennially favored metric at Instagram's parent company Facebook.

See also

Tom is the senior editor covering Windows at Download.com.