BUSINESS

FB post: internet.org is now Free Basics

Facebook has renamed what it had termed its Internet access enabling platform, “internet.org”, as Free Basics by Facebook.

Internet.org will remain as a wide and overarching entity, which includes the provision of free basic services apart from other projects such as enhancing connectivity and an innovation lab.

Briefing a group of Indian journalists at Facebook’s headquarters, Chris Daniels, the vice-president of Internet.org, said that Free Basics has been launched with the addition of a small set of services across 19 countries — including India — developed on an open platform with new partners.

The announcement of an open platform for websites and services on internet.org had already been made in May 2015 by Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg. The open platform and the new services offered on them are going live with the re-launch of Free Basics by Facebook (available as a downloadable app as well as a mobile website).

Mr. Daniels asserted that the key motivation behind this endeavour by Facebook was to “enhance accessibility in an affordable manner to the Internet.” By Facebook’s estimation based on triangulation of data from ISPs, the company’s own user database among others, internet.org has thus far enabled access to hitherto unconnected users at a rate of 50 per cent faster accessibility through the access to free and basic services, he said. Many of such users had, Facebook claims based on data, moved on to access the wider Internet through paying their service provider further for data plans.

Addressing prior criticism that internet.org violated the concept of “net neutrality”, Mr. Daniels and his colleagues pointed out that the platform hosting the basic services was open (based on a set of technical criteria) and there was no “exclusivity arrangement” with any telecommunications provider. Facebook has an ongoing tie-up with Reliance Communications in India to provide services through internet.org.

Facebook’s Strategic Partnerships Director Ime Archibong said that some of the new free and basic services that have added via the open platform in India include websites that cater to healthcare (Meradoctor), farming (mKisan), English learning (Englishdost), weather forecasting (Skymet) etc.

(The writer is in Menlo Park, California, at the invitation of Facebook)

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