As you may know, Facebook forces every user to their mobile version of the platform when accessing the site on an iPhone, Android or any other phone. However, the options on what you can do are a bit limited, namely reading and responding to messages without having to download the Messenger app.
Fear not, we’ll cover several different options here along with their pros and cons.
Jump Ahead To The Facebook Desktop Options & More:
- Facebook Desktop Option 1: Home.php
- Facebook Desktop Option 2: MBasic Site
- Facebook Desktop Option 3: Request Facebook Desktop Site
- How Do I Request Mobile Facebook Site On A Computer?
- Facebook Messenger On Desktop!
If you just want to get on with it, all you have to do is click the button below to force Facebook to take you to https://www.facebook.com/home.php, Facebook’s official desktop version. This will work in almost every case and should be all you need. However, there are a couple of examples where you may want to try, for instance, the MBasic version of Facebook. If that’s the case, scroll down below.
Facebook’s Hidden 301 Redirects
To give you a bit more detail, when you type in Facebook.com into your url bar or click a link for facebook.com what you don’t see is that you get a 301 redirect to m.facebook.com when on mobile! The 301 redirect is a way for the server to tell your browser to change the url. It’s meant for a permanent move of information.
For example, sometimes websites use a 301 redirect to send users from http to secure https versions of their website. In this case, Facebook is using 301 to redirect you to their mobile version.
As you can see in the screenshot below, we don’t have much of a choice than to use the mobile version with this method. There’s no way around a 301 redirect as it comes from Facebook’s servers and thus if Facebook detects you are trying to access their website on a mobile device their server will do a 301 redirect.
Now, what the url above (https://www.facebook.com/home.php) does is a bit different. Let’s check if it redirects to anything.
Nope, it gives a 200 OK response code, in other words, we’re all good, continue on to the site you requested. There’s no guarantee that Facebook doesn’t set up a 301 redirect from this link in the future so it’s not guaranteed to work forever. So, the important factor lies in what pages Facebook directs their servers to on a mobile device.
- Type in facebook.com and they’ll force you to the mobile site.
- Type in facebook.com/home.php and you’re in the clear!
What Can You Do On This Facebook Version: The nice thing here is that you have full functionality to do whatever you want to do as you would on a desktop. No limitations, but you do have to deal with bad UX.
This is one of my favorite hidden features of Facebook and something I really never see anyone talk about except in coding/programming forums. Facebook doesn’t regularly publicize this version of their platform since it’s not necessarily meant for regular users to visit. But, that doesn’t stop us!
Facebook maintains a subdomain called mbasic.facebook.com that is truly magic. You can think of this as a sort of Facebook lite, a version that has a lot of functionality but not the flare and cosmetics as the full-blown site.
As you can see it’s pretty basic, no fancy CSS styling, just the content as you could have guessed from the name. Perhaps this mbasic Facebook version is used by the developers to debug Facebook if they run into any issues. Sort of like how computers have “safe mode” if you run into issues.
The absolute best part about this is that you can use Facebook messages without the Messenger app. Unlike method 1 you don’t need to zoom in to see anything, it’s formatted for mobile but allows you to read and respond to messages as if you were on the Messenger app itself.
Facebook Messages With MBasic: This is what I personally use MBasic for, whenever I get a message on the app and all I really want to do is check the message I visit MBasic instead of installing Messenger.
Let’s take a look at it in all its glory!
mbasic is FAST!
Another great feature of the mbasic site is that it is light and fast! Below you’ll see we ran a Chrome Lighthouse test on both mbasic.facebook.com and facebook.com. The lighthouse test gives us all sorts of good information on how speedy and lightweight a website is.
You may find that if you’re on a bad internet connection Facebook runs super slow. This is a great option because using the MBasic version will be leaps and bounds faster than the normal option.
Mbasic scored an unheard of 100! While the regular Facebook site scored a quite unfortunate 54. Time to interactive, the time until the site is completely loaded and you can do everything you want is 1.0 seconds compared to 11.2 seconds!
The Facebook App Is A Data Hog
We all know Facebook’s app is a data sink, oftentimes in the top 3 apps that drain both my data and battery! Thankfully the mbasic site will help limit the amount of data your iPhone or Android uses.
Also, if you’re traveling internationally and want to preserve data this will help limit how much data the app uses. Let’s check and see what the page size difference is between the two different options.
- Facebook’s regular page size: 2,516kb
- Mbasic page size: 476kb
You can see that Facebook’s regular page size is 5X the amount of the mbasic site. That’s a huge difference and a reason in itself to switch to using mbasic a bit more often.
At this point, you are probably realizing why we love Facebook’s mbasic site. To summarize, here’s a pros and cons table.
|Read and write messages without the Messenger app, this is the primary reason I use this option the most.||Not styled, so overall basic look. It’s mostly pure HTML which means it won’t look fancy but who really cares?|
|No need to pinch and zoom to see things||No infinite scroll so you need to click to see more posts.|
|FAST||Videos will open in a new tab|
|Lightweight page limits data usage||Need to sometimes make multiple jumps to do actions like unliking something, etc. These actions will load a different page, which means it’s less of a seamless user experience.|
I’m sure you’ve heard of method 3 before. On pretty much every browser, Safari, Chrome, Firefox, Opera, etc. you can request the desktop version of a site through a button.
We can’t guarantee that this method will work in the future for Chrome and if it will or will not work on other browsers. The truth is, as the button notes it is only a request and the website can choose to honor the request or simply ignore it.
Let’s jump into the steps:
- Open Chrome, go to Facebook.com and login
- Tap the three horizontal dots at the bottom right corner
- Scroll down and tap Request Desktop Site
- Tap the top URL bar and remove “m.” from the beginning of the URL
- Press enter
Confused? You can watch the video below of me using this exact method on my iPhone XS.
For some reason, you may be more interested in landing on the mobile site when on a computer (Mac or PC). Thankfully, Facebook makes this pretty easy to do overall.
All you have to do is go to m.facebook.com. and hit enter. The key is the “m.” before “facebook.com” which will tell Facebook that you want to use the mobile subdomain version of the site instead of the normal desktop version.
Unlike on an iPhone when you’re on the mobile version on a computer you CAN access your messages. It knows enough not to pop up with a dialogue box requesting you download the Messenger app. On the flip side, you’ll see from the screenshot below it’s pretty bad with regards to styling. That’s because it’s meant to be viewed on a small screen.
Since we’re covering practically every other option you have, we thought it worthwhile to mention that you can always chat on Messenger on your computer simply by going to Messenger.com.
With this site, you can chat with friends and have nearly all the functionality of the app. Facebook recently announced that they are developing a Messenger app for PC and Mac. This would mean a native app similar to iMessages on a Mac computer.
The Facebook press release states that “You can download Messenger Desktop — and enjoy the same features as the app on your phone — like group video calls, collaborate on projects or multi-task while chatting in Messenger. We are testing this now and will roll it out globally later this year.”
*That’s not to say there would be more functionality than the app but simply a better user experience so that you can chat with your friends easier.
How Popular Is The Facebook Desktop Site?
Think you’re the only one who wishes Facebook would allow any mobile user toggle between the full site and mobile site? Think again. This has been a popular trend for a long time now.
Just last month, in June 2019 according to Google the search terms “Facebook desktop” and “Facebook full site” were searched for a combined 436,000 times! Of that, 95% of them were on a mobile device, 415,000 people.
That means a half million people per month wish they could access the desktop version of the site instead of the default mobile version. Luckily, they have the 3 options above!
When looking at the long term trends since 2004 you can see that there were two big spikes in 2012 and 2016 for interest in the desktop/full sites.
It’s not entirely what triggered those two large spikes but what is clear is that there are a lot of users that wish Facebook would implement this feature.
The 2012 spike may have been because Facebook went public in May of 2012. This meant lots of added publicity around Facebook and probably prompted more users on the platform. We haven’t been able to diagnose why there was the 2016 spike.
Perhaps, if we keep using the methods above we’ll shout just loud enough for Mr. Zuckerberg to hear!
Facebook’s Updated Desktop Layout
Facebook recently released their newest Facebook layout for desktop and it’s been great to get a sense for where Facebook is headed in the future. In general, their plan is to build out the desktop experience similar to the app experience.
What we’ve learned in recent years is that apps drive user engagement unlike websites do. On top of that, apps convert better than websites do, meaning the revenue per user on an app is significantly higher. These are all obvious reasons why Facebook wants to keep you on the app. Overall better engagement, higher conversions and a happier user. Unfortunately, at times that means functionality can be sacrificed for usability.
Forecasts from Business Insider show, as do many others, that the share of mobile e-commerce will significantly increase in the coming years with stagnant to declining desktop e-commerce. All of these combined makes it clear why Facebook would focus on mobile. In fact, we see lots of apps that focus on mobile-first, some never developing a full-fledged desktop experience.
For example, Snapchat, TikTok and Kik Messenger are all apps that don’t have an online version and focus purely on mobile. With the acquisition of Instagram by Facebook and the sudden access to vast capital, Instagram developed a desktop viewing-only platform. If you want to create and post an image or video, though, the app is still your only avenue.
In my opinion, the future of mobile is the future of everything. -- Matt Galligan, Co-founder of Circa