Facebook to Test Ultra Slow Connections on Tuesdays

John Lister's picture

Facebook is to deliberately slow down the Internet connections of its employees on Tuesdays. It's not designed to deter web use, but rather to help staff think about the needs of users across the world.

The program will only affect visits to the Facebook site itself, rather than access to the entire Internet. It will also be voluntary: the first time an employee logs on to Facebook on a Tuesday, they'll get a pop-up menu asking them if they want to take the "2G Tuesday option."

Site Will Run At One-Hundredth 'Normal' Speed

If an employee agrees, then all their use of Facebook for the next two hours will be at a similar speed to a 2G connection, meaning a basic cellphone connection. Though Facebook hasn't given a precise definition, that will be somewhere between 0.1 and 0.3 megabits per second, which is equivalent to 12.5 kb to 37.5 kb per second.

To put that into context, a survey last year put the average speed for US Internet users at 11.4 megabits per second (or 1375 kb per second). Meanwhile, the Federal Communications Commission voted earlier this year to set 25 megabits per second as the minimum speed threshold when calculating how widespread broadband availability is in the country. (Source: readwrite.com)

Facebook says the idea of the experiment is two-fold. The first element is to act as a simple reminder to staff, as well as a more widespread highlighting of the fact that such speeds aren't out of the ordinary for people in remote parts of the world who get online using cellular data, such as with cheap smartphones.

Experiment Could Uncover Site Hitches

This can mean that webpages designed with the assumption that the user is on fast broadband can be frustrating and impractical to use, sometimes taking several minutes to load. (Source: facebook.com)

The second purpose of the experiment is to get staff to identify specific problems with Facebook's own site when running at slow speeds. The company already uses a range of technologies designed to make the site easier to use under such conditions; for example, programmers write code that make message text and status updates load first before multimedia or layout elements appear.

What's Your Opinion?

Do you think this is a good way of highlighting connectivity issues across the entire Internet and not just limited to Facebook.com? Would the experiment be more effective if it was mandatory and affected all sites the Facebook employees visited? Would you be prepared to take part in an experiment of using 2G speeds for a set period?

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Dennis Faas's picture

Twitter's Bootstrap was designed to help manage slow Internet connections through its consistent framework, as well as make certain parts of HTML markup a standard for websites. If anything, websites should follow this format for making their sites mobile-ready as well using the latest framework for speed and efficiency. Unfortunately, implementing such framework usually means reworking an entire website which can not only be costly but extremely time intensive.

alan.cameron_4852's picture

I wonder if they will give the staff a real feel of the amount of advertising we non-staff have to suffer. The slow speed caused by adverts was what forced me to cancel my account with Facebook.