With Free Basics, Facebook hopes to build on Internet.org

26 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Facebook Opens Up Internet.org With New Free Basics App- Chris Daniels Tells You More.

Internet.org, the controversial Facebook venture, has just got a facelift. New Delhi: Facebook Inc. has expanded its free basic Internet services under the Internet.org initiative in 19 countries, the company said in a blog post. “Starting today, more than one billion people who have access to Internet.org’s free basic services across Asia, Africa and Latin America will now be able to access more free services through the Internet.org platform,” said a blog dated 24 September.

Facebook, which has been facing criticism from some quarters in India for its Internet.org service, has opened up its free Internet platform as the Free Basics app. Internet.org is a partnership between the social networking company and telecommunication companies where it provides free services such as applications for learning English and providing information to farmers in developing countries.

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. 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. Facebook’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg, even wrote an editorial in two Indian newspapers earlier this year following the project’s February launch in the country in a bid to publicly defend the project (others have defended it, too). Launched in February, Internet.org started out as a service meant to connect those who do not have Internet connections, to the social media network, as well as websites such as Wikipedia, ESPN, BBC, Reuters, ClearTrip, AccuWeather and Dictionary.com.

For instance, Facebook has partnered with 30 Indian developers for ‘free basic services’. “Not only does this expand the range of resources available to people, it gives them more choice and control over the services they can use in the app and website,” the blog said. Chris Daniels, vice-president of Internet.org, said the idea was to create a differentiation from the wider objectives of Internet.org. “We want to give people access to a few free basics services on the Internet and we know they will quickly understand the value of the Internet,” he said during an interaction at Facebook’s new office in Menlo Park. – See more at: http://indianexpress.com/article/technology/tech-news-technology/facebook-opens-up-internet-org-with-new-free-basics-apps/#sthash.YYjrZAHB.dpuf 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. 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. The service is positioned a bit differently from Airtel Zero and that reflects in the emphasis on making the content compatible for low bandwidth and low-cost devices, which may find it difficult to run all these apps separately.

The company also said it will be encrypting information “wherever possible” to make it “safer for people to connect to the websites and services they care about”. 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. Simply put, users with a Reliance mobile connection can access all the services that form part of Free Basics without paying extra for data charges or rentals.

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. Facebook claims the service has improved lives by providing free health, education, and finance-related information to people in poor and backward countries. Facebook’s use of certain security protocols on the Web version of Internet.org had led to some concerns; with Free Basics, a part of that issue has been addressed by allowing the use of Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) on websites, something that wasn’t available on the Web version earlier.

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