Facebook renames Internet.org to ‘Free Basics,’ opens up to more developers …

25 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Free Basics by Facebook’ replaces Internet.org website and app.

The two-year-old project to bring Internet access to four billion people who currently don’t have it — especially in emerging markets across Asia — has taken flack for only allowing users access to Facebook services, and select local websites (i.e. jobs, health information, and sports). The number of pilgrims who died in a stampede outside the Muslim holy town of Mecca, which is said to be the worst disaster to strike the annual Hajj pilgrimage in 25 years.A few months ago, Facebook opened up the Internet.org platform to developers after being accused of violating net neutrality rules, mostly by users in India.

Essentially the pushback has been around the question of net neutrality, and whether Facebook dictating what content is accessible through its free app and mobile website leaves it in a moral grey area. Now, Zuckerberg’s project has added 60 new services created by third-party developers, including BabyCenter for pregnancy and parenting info and SmartBusiness for novice entrepreneurs.

Facebook’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg, even wrote an editorial in two Indian newspapers earlier this year following its February launch in the country in a bid to publicly defend the project (others have defended it, too). The announcement was made at the Facebook Headquarters in Melno Park, California by Chris Daniels, VP of Internet.org, in the presence of a small group of Indian journalists. Since it has undergone quite an overhaul, it has also been renamed to “Free Basics by Facebook” to distinguish it from the larger Internet.org initiative.

But change is coming, according to a statement put out on Internet.org’s website, alongside separate comments a few hours later from Zuckerberg himself in a Facebook posting. “Today we’re announcing significant improvements to Internet.org,” he wrote. “We’ve listened to feedback from the community and made three big changes. Between 2012 and 2014, 3,46,323 Indian Muslims have gone on a Hajj pilgrimage from the Haj Committee of India and 95,490 through private tour operators. Zuckerberg has also written a post stating how a soybean farmer from rural Maharashtra ‘makes better parenting decisions by accessing expert advice through the BabyCenter app for free through Internet.org.’ He further talks about the ‘improvements’ and the platform being ‘open to all developers’. “We’ve improved the security and privacy of Internet.org. In India, the net neutrality debate and massive public outrage had made many take sides, and some big names like NDTV, Cleartrip and some properties of Times Group decided to part ways with Internet.org as a result.

You’ll get to keep your current user name (as long as it doesn’t contain invalid characters, in which case you’ll have to go through a few extra steps to make the transfer), and all your old comments will eventually (not immediately) migrate with you. While Facebook already launched its Internet.org platform for developers back in May as a direct response to net neutrality criticism, it did so with strict guidelines in place. Of this, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Delhi were the top three states that accounted for 44% of the total number of consumers who had given up the LPG subsidy. That same month, Facebook announced that the project was now available to more than one billion people, and more recently in July we heard about its massive new drone that will beam Internet down to developing countries. It’s an example of how population growth has been faster in the peripheries of the major Indian cities, as pointed out by the World Bank in its recent report on urbanisation in South Asia.

Talking about “hidden urbanisation”, the report pointed out that the official national statistics in South Asian countries understated the share of the region’s population living in areas with urban characteristics. We hope the improvements we’ve made today help even more people get connected — so that our whole global community can benefit together,” Zuckerberg concluded. Applicable to students of all categories, the government would provide financial assistance for those who score above 90 percentile and whose parents’ annual income do not exceed Rs.4.5 lakh per annum. Internet.org is a partnership between the social networking company, telecommunication companies where it would provide free services including applications for learning English or providing information to farmers in developing countries.

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