Facebook's Internet.org opens platform to other online services

Internet.org was criticized by net neutrality advocates for backing just a few services

Facebook's Internet.org has opened its free Internet access platform to any low-bandwidth online service that meets its technical guidelines for running on basic phones.

Internet.org's goal is to provide underprivileged people in Asia, Africa and Latin America with access to select online services without mobile data charges.

However, it ran into trouble in India where it was criticized by local net neutrality activists for creating "walled gardens" that provide free access only to a few preferred content providers and services, including Facebook.

Under pressure from the activists, some of the 38 websites and services that had joined Internet.org and operator Reliance Communications for the project opted out of the alliance or signaled that they were ready to leave. These included the Times Group, which withdrew some of its media sites, and travel site Cleartrip.

On Monday, Internet.org said it had decided to give people more choice over the services they use and would welcome to its platform websites that were simple and data efficient. Websites will not pay to be included, and operators won't charge developers for the data people use for their services.

Operators also do not get paid to offer the free access, said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in a video posted to the Internet.org website. He added that the program would support itself as users of free basic services will move to paid services to access the broader Internet, making it worthwhile for operators to offer the free services.

In a response to his critics in India, Zuckerberg said net neutrality should not prevent the underprivileged from accessing the Internet, which can provide them a way out of their poverty, "It is not an equal Internet if the majority of people can't participate," he added.

"We're building an open platform and anyone who meets these guidelines will be able to participate," the Internet.org project, launched in 2013 by Facebook and other tech companies, wrote in a post on its website.

The websites will have to be optimized for browsing on both feature and smartphones and with limited bandwidth. Services should not also use voice-over-Internet Protocol, video, file transfer, high resolution photos, or a high volume of photos.

In its technical guidelines, Internet.org has asked that the mobile websites should work in the absence of JavaScript, SVG images and WOFF font types, security features like SSL, TLS and HTTPS, iframes, video and large images, and Flash and Java applets.

Net neutrality has emerged as a controversial issue in India after the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India asked in March for comments on a framework for Internet applications and services that ride on mobile operators' networks.

One mobile operator, Bharti Airtel, introduced a platform, called Airtel Zero, so that app developers could offer so-called zero-rating apps to customers after paying the operator a fee. That move was also criticized by pro-neutrality groups who worry that operators are looking to charge providers of websites and mobile apps to deliver services to their customers.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags Internet-based applications and servicesInternet.orginternetFacebook

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

John Ribeiro

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?