Facebook Zero offers no-cost mobile access

Facebook yesterday launched a stripped-down version of its social networking site that's free for mobile users.

Plans for 'Facebook Zero', as the 0.facebook.com service is being called, were first revealed by the social network in February. It's a text-only version of the site that enables users to access the site for free, even in countries where access would require data charges.

Facebook Zero enables users to update their status, view their news feed, send messages and write on friends' walls - all at no cost. To avoid data charges, Facebook Zero has been developed in collaboration with mobile operators in a number of countries.

No charge will be made by participating operators for the relatively small amounts of data required to download text pages – so users will only start paying for data if they click to reveal an image or other attached link.

In addition to avoiding data charges, the low-bandwidth version of the site has been optimised for use in countries where mobile internet connections are less reliable.

A post on the Official Facebook Blog yesterday announced that the service had gone live, and was available via more than 50 mobile operators in 45 countries. Facebook Zero will shortly be available in the UK, but only to users on the 3 Mobile network.

At present, more than 100 million people worldwide access Facebook on a mobile device using the existing Facebook Mobile service (m.facebook.com). The launch of the Zero service could see that number increase dramatically.