Internet.org

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File:Internet org.png
Internet.org logo

Internet.org is a highly controversial [1] partnership between social networking services company Facebook and six companies (Samsung, Ericsson, MediaTek, Opera Software, Nokia and Qualcomm) that plans to bring affordable access to selected Internet services to less developed countries by increasing efficiency, and facilitating the development of new business models around the provision of Internet access.[2][3]

It has been criticized for violating net neutrality, and by handpicking internet services that are included, for discriminating against companies not in the list, including Facebook's rivals.[4][5] An Indian journalist, in his reply to Mark Zuckerberg's article defending Internet.org in India, criticized Internet.org as "being just a Facebook proxy targeting India's poor" as it provides restricted Internet access to Reliance Telecom's subscribers in India.[6] Until April 2015, Internet.org users could access (for free) only a few websites, and Facebook's role as gatekeeper in determining what websites were in that list was criticised for violating net neutrality. In May 2015, Facebook announced that the Free Basics Platform would be opened to websites that met its criteria.[7][8]

In September 2015, the app delivering these services was renamed Free Basics.[9]

In February 2016, regulators banned the Free Basics service in India based on "Prohibition of Discriminatory Tariffs for Data Services Regulations".[10]

History

File:Wikipedia en Free Basics México.jpg
Mobile with Free Basics zero rating plan showing Spanish Wikipedia mainpage in Mexico

Launch

Internet.org was launched on August 20, 2013.[3][11][12] At the time of launch, Facebook's founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg released a ten-page whitepaper he had written elaborating on the vision.[13] In the paper, he wrote that Internet.org was a further step in the direction of Facebook's past initiatives, such as Facebook Zero, to improve Internet access for people around the world. He also said that "connectivity is a human right." A TechCrunch article about the launch compared Internet.org with Google's Project Loon.[3]

Participants

Below is a selective history of launch dates and participating mobile networks:

Timeline

Year Month and date (if available) Event type
2013 August 20 Launch, vision Internet.org is launched with a whitepaper from Mark Zuckerberg that asserts that connectivity is a human right.[3][11][12]
2013 September 11 Vision Zuckerberg elaborates on his vision further in a video for TechCrunch Disrupt on September 11, 2013.[37]
2013 September 16 Vision Facebook and Internet.org detail some "1000X" futuristic technologies to move in the direction of their goal of universal affordable Internet access.[38][39][40]
2013 September 30 Vision Zuckerberg releases a video explaining Internet.org's goal of making the Internet 100X more affordable.[41]
2014 February 24 New projects, vision Shortly before a keynote presentation by Zuckerberg at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on February 24, 2014, Internet.org unveils several new projects: an education partnership called SocialEDU with Nokia and local carrier AirTel, edX, and the government in Rwanda; a project with Unilever in India; and a new Internet.org Innovation Lab with Ericsson in its Menlo Park HQ.[42] In the presentation, Zuckerberg says that Facebook's recent acquisition of mobile messaging app WhatsApp for $19 billion was closely related to the Internet.org vision.[43][44][45] According to a TechCrunch article, Zuckerberg's vision for Internet.org was as follows: "The idea, he said, is to develop a group of basic internet services that would be free of charge to use — "a 911 for the internet." These could be a social networking service like Facebook, a messaging service, maybe search and other things like weather. Providing a bundle of these free of charge to users will work like a gateway drug of sorts — users who may be able to afford data services and phones these days just don’t see the point of why they would pay for those data services. This would give them some context for why they are important, and that will lead them to paying for more services like this — or so the hope goes."[43]
2014 early March Potential acquisition There are rumors that Facebook is buying drone maker Titan Aerospace for $60 million, in order to further its vision with Internet.org, and that the drones would play a role similar to the balloons in Google's Project Loon.[46][47]
2014 March 27 New projects Facebook announces a Connectivity Lab as part of the Internet.org initiative, with the goal of bringing the Internet to everybody via drones, acquired from Ascenta.[48][49][50][51] There was no mention of the rumored acquisition of Titan Aerospace in the announcement.[49] It is also communicated by the Connectivity Lab, that, besides using drones, low-Earth orbit and geosynchronous satellites would also be part of the project, for establishing internet connectivity in other areas. All three systems would rely on free space optics (FSO). In free space optics, the signal is sent in a compact bundle of infrared light[52]
2014 April 30 Tools It is announced that Internet.org would let f8 developers test their apps on a simulated low-bandwidth network.[53]
2014 October 9 Contest At the first Internet.org summit in New Delhi, Zuckerberg announced that Internet.org is launching a contest with a $1 million prize, with the goal of making people in India want the web.[54][55]
2014 October 12 Tools Internet.org announces that it is working with carriers to analyze and improve their network performance to benefit their users, and that it had started by working with carriers in Indonesia.[56]
2015 March 2 Partnership, competition At the Mobile World Congress, Mark Zuckerberg says that the Internet.org initiative is "willing to work" with Project Loon (Google's project to use high-altitude balloons to provide people cheaper Internet access) but emphasizes that in his view, the real work is in partnering with existing telecommunications companies to improve access and reduce costs for people already within range of a network, which he estimates at over 80% of the population.[57][58]
2015 April 15 Negative reaction Some Indian startups start pulling out of internet.org to protect net neutrality.[59][60][61]
2015 May 4 Platform Facebook announces the Internet.org Platform, an open program for developers to easily create services that integrate with Internet.org. Participating websites must meet three criteria: (1) Explore the entire internet (so as to give users a taste of the wider Internet and therefore help them see the value of the Internet), (2) Efficiency of data use (so that it would be economical for carriers to allow free access to the websites), and (3) Technical specifications: optimized for browsing on a wide range of devices including smartphones and less sophisticated mobile devices, and should not be dependent on Javascript or HTTPS.[62] This is seen by commentators as a response to concerns raised over net neutrality.[8]
2015 October acquisition Facebook and Eutelsat lease the entire Ka-band capacity (36 spot beams with a total throughput of 18 Gbit/s) on the planned Amos-6 satellite to provide access to parts of Africa[63][64]
2016 January 20 Negative reaction Search giant Google has exited Facebook's Free Basics platform in Zambia. They were included in the initial trial of this project, which was first launched in Zambia.[65]
2016 January 21 Negative reaction the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) criticizes and rebukes Facebook for its misleading commercials and Astroturfing the Free Basics campaign. TRAI has accused Facebook of failing to pass on the four questions in the regulator's consultation paper and also blocking access to TRAI's designated email for feedback on Free Basics.[66][67]
2016 February 8 Negative reaction TRAI bans the Free Basics service in India based on "Prohibition of Discriminatory Tariffs for Data Services Regulations, 2016" notification.[10]
2016 February 11 Negative reaction Facebook withdraws the Free Basics platform from India after it got banned by the "Prohibition of Discriminatory Tariffs for Data Services Regulations, 2016" notification.[68]

Internet.org summit

The first Internet.org summit was held on 9 October 2014 in New Delhi, India. The primary objective of this summit was to bring together experts, officials and industry leaders to focus on ways to deliver more Internet services for people in languages other than English. Zuckerberg also met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to talk about how Facebook and the Indian government can collaborate on Internet.org.[69][70][71][72]

Other Usages

Through this website, it is also possible to get to the websites that are not listed.

Services

This is some of the websites which is free of charge through this site (this may vary between countries) :

Reception

Expanding Internet access

An article published on Datamation in August 2013 discussed Internet.org in relation to past accessibility initiatives by Facebook and Google such as Facebook Zero, Google Free Zone, and Project Loon.[73]

In December 2013, David Talbot wrote a detailed article for Technology Review titled Facebook's Two Faces: Facebook and Google Aim to Fix Global Connectivity, but for Whom? about Internet.org and other Internet accessibility initiatives.[74]

Internet.org and Project Loon have been described as being engaged in an Internet space race.[75][76][77]

There have also been technical debates about the relative feasibility and value of using balloons (as championed by Project Loon) instead of drones,[75] with Mark Zuckerberg favoring drones.[78]

The focus on futuristic technologies has been described by some commentators as "sheer technologist fantasy",[79] a position with which Zuckerberg came to agree in March 2015 when he said that the focus should be on working with traditional telecommunications companies to improve and streamline their services and reduce costs rather than on futuristic technologies.[58]

User experience research

In 2015, researchers evaluating how Facebook Zero shapes information and communication technologies (ICT)[80][81] use in the developing world found that 11% of Indonesians who said they used Facebook also said they did not use the Internet. 65% of Nigerians, and 61% of Indonesians agree with the statement that "Facebook is the Internet" compared with only 5% in the US.[82]

Net neutrality principles

On 15 April 2015 several partners of the Indian Internet.org program quit due to what they perceived as Facebook's violation of net neutrality.[59][60][61] Cleartrip said it was impossible to pretend there is no conflict of interest.[83]

After a lot of criticism of Internet.org which has partnership with Reliance in India, Mark Zuckerberg replied in an article for Hindustan Times stating that Internet.org and net neutrality can co-exist and Internet.org will never differentiate between services.[84] His claims were contested by many response articles, including one published in the Hindustan Times.[6][85] In May 2015, the Internet.org Platform, open to participation by any developers meeting specified guidelines, was announced. Some commentators viewed this announcement as a response to the net neutrality concerns expressed.[8] The PMO has expressed displeasure at Facebook's reaction to and handling of TRAI's consultation paper, calling it a crudely majoritarian and orchestrated opinion poll.[86]

See also

References

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