For those who weren’t aware, Internet.org is a partnership between Facebook and mobile phone companies that aims to bring affordable Internet access to emerging economies. Launched at the end of August 2013, the initiative has span so far across such countries as Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya, Colombia and Ghana. Now Facebook has announced the launch of the Internet.org app and free basic services in India in partnership with Reliance Communications.
Thus, Reliance customers in six Indian states – Tamil Nadu, Mahararashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Kerala, and Telangana, will be able to access 38 websites ranging from news, health, travel, local jobs, sports, communication, and local government information. Here are some of the most popular websites and what they do:
- AccuWeather: Get updated weather information
- BBC News: Read news from around the world
- Bing Search: Find information
- Dictionary.com: Search for meanings of words
- Facebook: Communicate with friends and family
- India Today: Read local news
- NDTV: Read news
- Times of India: Read news
- Wikipedia: Find information
- wikiHow: Find information
These websites will be accessible through the Internet.org Android app, at www.internet.org, from the start screen of the Opera Mini mobile web browser, and using the Android app UC Browser for Internet.org. On its official blog, Facebook said the following:
This is a big step forward in our efforts to connect everyone to the internet, and to help people share their ideas and creativity with the entire world. We’ll continue to improve the experience and roll it out to other parts of the world.
As we can see, the app isn’t available to the full Indian population yet, since Facebook has partnered only with a single operator, Reliance. However, there is no reason not to believe that it won’t extend the initiative to other operators. Reliance Communications is the 4th biggest mobile network operator in India, with a market share of close to 12%.
Internet.org jeopardizes Net Neutrality
Although the intent behind Internet.org sounds genuine, it breaks the basic foundation of net neutrality. By providing free access to selected few websites and services, it is indirectly creating imbalance on the web. In Net Neutrality, the idea is to provide equal access to ALL applications and services on the web without differentiating on the basis of speed or cost of access.
The biggest share of new internet users will come from emerging markets in Africa, Asia and South America. And it’s most likely that this will be thanks to the increased usage in mobile devices. So, as we can see, Facebook isn’t doing this only for ‘civic’ reasons, but, of course, in order to ensure its business will be booming in the future, as well. Basically, Facebook is trying to be the gateway to the mobile internet just like Google has become the de facto gateway to desktop internet.