How Facebook Is Changing Internet.org to Make it More Inclusive
Tuesday, May 5, 2015
Internet.org, Facebook’s marquee program to bring people in developing countries online, first came to India in February. Facebook partnered with Reliance Communications to provide almost 40 websites and services free to users — everything from news and weather information to travel sites like Cleartrip. It also included free access to Facebook and Facebook Messenger.
Last month, the cookie crumbled. Partners like Cleartrip and NDTV publicly pulled out of the program stating that Internet.org violated the principles of net neutrality, which state that all data on the internet should be treated equally. Cleartrip’s blog post announcing the decision said: “It is impossible to pretend there is no conflict of interest (both real and perceived) in our decision to be a participant in Internet.org.”
Internet.org’s biggest problem was its lack of transparency. No one knew how Facebook or telecom operators picked and chose the services that Internet.org featured. Today, Facebook is changing that.
Internet.org is now an open platform for website developers. Think of it like the app store on your Android device or your iPhone. Just like developers can write apps and submit them to Apple or Google to be featured in their app stores, website makers can customise their sites to Facebook’s guidelines and submit them to Facebook to be a part of Internet.org.
In an interview with Hindustan Times, Chris Daniels, the Vice President of Product for Internet.org at Facebook talks about why the world’s largest social network is moving fast to fix its ambitious — and controversial — program to connect the next billion people to the internet.
Excerpts from the interview:
Are you making Internet.org into a platform that anyone can sign up for in response to high-profile partners like Cleartrip and NDTV puling out?
This is a natural evolution to the program. We started off with just a few content partners because we needed to prove the model worked for operators, that it was bringing more people online. I’ve been talking to many content and operator partners and I think it’s good timing now.
So why did your partners pull out?
I think you’d have to ask them why they pulled out. So, um, yeah, you should probably just talk to them.
What is the biggest difference between Internet.org and the new Internet.org platform?
I think the biggest change is that we’re offering consumers choice. Any developer can submit their site or service to us to be a part of the new Internet.org platform.