Facebook CEO defends effort to expand Internet access

28 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

5 takeaways Zuckerberg’s Townhall; P.S. Candy Crush invites may go.

NEW DELHI – Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg defended his company’s contentious efforts to expand Internet access in the developing world during his second visit to India this year.NEW DELHI: Facebook chief executive and founder Mark Zuckerberg said Wednesday he believes India will be crucial to getting “the next billion online” and helping to alleviate poverty.

The company’s free platform offering a basic level of Internet access via Android devices has been introduced to 24 countries and has amassed about 15 million users, mostly in Africa and Asia, Zuckerberg said at a meeting Wednesday with students. To this, the Facebook CEO responded, “I saw this top-voted question on my thread and sent a message to the person in charge of the developer platform to get rid of this issue. Speaking to students at the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, Zuckerberg said widening internet access was vital to economic development in a country where a billion people are still not online. The platform known as Free Basics was developed in conjunction with other technology companies and has brought a mixed response from governments and analysts.

India is Facebook’s second biggest market after the United States (US), with about 130 million of its 1.5 billion worldwide users, making it critically important for the site which is banned in China. We hadn’t prioritised shutting it down, but we are doing it now.” Currently, the only way to avoid receiving notifications from Candy Crush on Facebook is to turn off notifications for all games. The 31-year-old billionaire gave lighthearted answers to questions including “Why do I get so many requests for Candy Crush?” and “If you could have a supernatural power what would you wish for?” But he also vigorously defended Facebook’s controversial Internet.org project, which provides free access to the Internet, mainly in poor rural communities, in 24 countries including India.

That’s a significant number, not only because it’s huge, but also because that’s over a tenth of Facebook’s 1.4-billion user base around the world. Critics of Internet.org say it violates net neutrality — the principle that companies providing Internet access should not favour some sites or restrict access to others. “We have a moral responsibility to look out for people who do not have the Internet… and make sure the rules don’t get twisted to hurt people who don’t have a voice,” Zuckerberg said, adding that the programme had brought a million Indians online. He said limiting content on the Free Basics platform was necessary, because “you cannot provide the whole Internet for free.” It was initially known as Internet.org. Facebook is also exploring new ways to increase access in hard-to-reach areas, he said, such as solar-powered planes to “beam down connectivity” and data-light apps that work on slow 2G networks.

The tech world did a double take in 2014 when Facebook announced that it was buying Oculus VR, the makers of the Oculus Rift, a virtual reality headset, for $2 billion. The new feature called ‘Message Requests’ set to be rolled out over the next few days, will allow users to connect with anyone via the Facebook Messenger chat.

Zuckerberg’s trip came after a weekend visit to Tsinghua university in Beijing where he delivered a 20-minute speech in Mandarin, a language he has been studying since 2010. Last month, Zuckerberg hosted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a Silicon Valley town hall meeting, at which Modi also touted the power of social media in economic development by helping people to share knowledge and ideas.

Previously, messages sent by unknown people who were not your friends (or were friends of friends) were deposited to the ‘other’ inbox, a separate section within the messages tab on the social network. At the Townhall, Zuckerberg explained why he believed that virtual reality was the future of social networking. “I think people get richer and richer mediums of sharing [experiences] as time goes on,” he said. “First, it was just text on the internet, then it was photos.

With this new feature, Facebook has made message handling more efficient; allowing users to read the message and choose whether or not to respond without the sender knowing. Now, the only thing you need to talk to virtually anyone in the world is their name.” “The rule is pretty simple: If you’re friends on Facebook, if you have each other’s contact info in your phone and have these synced, or if you have an existing open thread, the new messages from that sender will be routed to your inbox. And at some point, you’re going to be able to share these [immersive] virtual reality experiences through your News Feed or WhatsApp.” Facebook is adding more intelligence to Messenger, its instant messaging platform. Further, Marcus confirmed that Facebook is getting rid of the dated “Other Folder” which was only accessible via the Web, while calling the change ‘foundational’ and asserted that there’s more to come from the Messenger team in the coming months as they “continue to improve ways to find the people you want to communicate with.” Facebook CEO is in India to hold a Townhall Q&A.

It’s currently testing a virtual assistant called M within Messenger, which is powered by both algorithms and humans, and lets you do everything from booking flights to finding great deals when shopping online. Zuckerberg stressed that Facebook’s controversial platform, Internet.org (later rebranded as Free Basics) fully supports net neutrality. “But the company is against banning zero-rating,” he said. “Good net neutrality provisions are blocking things that hurt people but also prioritising zero-rating.

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