Why Facebook is intentionally giving developers crummy Internet connections

October 27, 2015, 7:00 PM UTC
Social Media Illustrations
Privacy setting shortcuts are displayed on Apple Inc. iPhone 6 smartphone screen as a FaceBook Inc. logo is seen in this arranged photograph taken in London, U.K., on Friday, May, 15, 2015. Facebook reached a deal with New York Times Co. and eight other media outlets to post stories directly to the social network's mobile news feeds, as publishers strive for new ways to expand their reach. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Photograph by Chris Ratcliffe — Bloomberg via Getty Images

Since it’s headquartered in the epicenter of technology innovation, Facebook has decided to give its employees a taste of what users in parts of the world with less developed Internet infrastructure experience using the service.

To do so, the company is instituting a new initiative, dubbed “2G Tuesdays.” Every Tuesday, when employees log into the Facebook (FB) mobile app, they’ll be prompted to opt into using the social network at a 2G speed — instead of the 3G, 4G, or LTE speed most of us are used to — for the next hour. The goal is to show Facebook employees what it’s like to use their own product under these conditions, and help them take this under consideration in their work.

“People are coming online at a staggering rate in emerging markets and, in most cases, are doing so on mobile via 2G connections. But on the lower end of 2G networks, it can take about two minutes to download a webpage,” a Facebook spokeswoman told Fortune.

Facebook teams regularly tests the service’s performance on web and mobile apps by taking trips to countries where network conditions aren’t as advanced, and make improvements on page load times, data efficiency, app size, and so on. This new initiative will let any Facebook employee experience these conditions and potentially contribute improvements or ideas.

Facebook also operates two labs on its campus to help its employees ensure the service works well for all users. In its “empathy lab,” employees can test the service on a variety of devices, including lower-end ones that are common in emerging markets. At its Internet.org lab, operated in partnership with Ericsson, developers, even those outside of Facebook, can simulate mobile networking conditions and test websites and apps as they would work in emerging markets.

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