Internet.Org: Where Mark Zuckerberg’s Pet Project Stands 1 Year Later

28 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

After Backlash, Facebook Opens Portal To Court More Operators., which marked its first anniversary on Monday, has been able to bring in new users at a faster pace as well as making at least half of them move to a paid model within a month, Facebook has claimed.A year after Facebook introduced, the company is making it easier for any mobile operator to sign up to offer free internet access to basic online services.Facebook is marking the one-year anniversary of the launch of its service, which enables free mobile access to a selection of web services in emerging markets, with a push to bring more mobile operators into the project. In a telephonic interaction with the, Chris Daniels, vice-president of product for at Facebook, said: “We have noticed that users who have joined want to move on and experience more internet. first launched in Africa, but has since expanded and is now available in 17 countries — including countries with very large populations like India — spanning three continents, but only worked with select operators. Launched last year, the programme has more than a dozen mobile operators on board across 17 countries offering basic Internet services without data charges to over a billion people.

One key part of that charm offensive is a dedicated portal that provides a go-to resource for operators seeking to connect with Facebook and offer the service — which was first announced in 2013 — to their subscribers. The site also lays out the business case, in Facebook’s eyes, behind “As we approach year two, we’ve taken everything we’ve learned from working closely with our partners and are now ready to scale free basic services. As a nod to the raging net neutrality debate and accusations that allowed access to only preferred websites, Facebook also made sure to reiterate in its blog post that its goal was to “work with as many mobile operators and developers as possible to extend the benefits of connectivity.” Theoretically, this means that any developer would be able to create services offered through — although questions about how much this will cost, or what regulations developers will have to work around, remain as yet unanswered. Facebook developed the platform with six technology partners to bring an estimated 4.5 billion unconnected people online, mainly in Latin America, Asia and Africa.

Facebook’s blog post said that over the past year, the service had bought new users onto mobile networks on average over 50% faster and that more than half the people using are paying for data to access the wider Internet within 30 days. “This is really a customer acquisition tool for mobile operators where the benefit to them of offering a very light amount of free data is to bring on more paying subscribers to their networks,” Daniels said, speaking over phone from Nairobi, where he is attending a summit. The application, launched in India in February in partnership with Reliance Communications, faced backlash with a number of leading technology and Internet firms pulling out of the service after activists claimed it violated the principles of a neutral Internet. “I would say India is unique in that respect and very much an outlier. Mark Zuckerberg has refuted calls — loudest in India — that by constructing a program of pre-selected services, Facebook and its operator partners play the role of gatekeeper rather than encouraging a free Internet.

Speaking about India, he said: “The DoT report emphasises the principles for the preservation of net neutrality and the statistics we have released today show is that is a gateway to the internet and not a gatekeeper.” He said the report recognises the case they have made for an open platform. “I think it is necessary for all countries to have services that bring more people online, as these people will then have a better life,” he added. It will be fascinating to see whether we see an uptick in new launches or operators exercising caution in handling this potentially hot monetization potato. (Facebook and could face regulation in India, for one place.)

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