Facebook's Goals for Internet.org and Why It's Facing Criticism

Facebook's Goals for Internet.org and Why It's Facing Criticism
It's the Brainchild of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg
Two-Thirds of The World's Population Is Unconnected
Wireless Carriers Are Key Partners
The 'Free' Deal Is an Issue for Some
Facebook Worked With Select Few App Partners
Facebook Has Opened Development to Others
Critics Say Facebook's Rules Are Still Too Restrictive
Facebook Says Some Internet Is Better Than None
Public Good or Facebook's Gain?
Critics Want the Entire Internet
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Facebook's Goals for Internet.org and Why It's Facing Criticism

By Don Reisinger

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It's the Brainchild of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

What one needs to understand first about Internet.org is that Facebook stands at the center of it. The initiative was developed by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and his company heads up its development. While there are other companies involved, including device makers and wireless carriers, it's Facebook that matters most.

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Two-Thirds of The World's Population Is Unconnected

So, what exactly is the goal of Internet.org? According to the project's site, one-third of the world's population is connected to the Internet. The Internet.org initiative aims to connect the remaining two-thirds.

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Wireless Carriers Are Key Partners

To get people online, the core component is wireless carriers. Telecoms around the world already have the infrastructure in place to extend connectivity to customers, but many people simply cannot afford those connections. By partnering with carriers, Facebook is trying to eliminate pricing barriers and provide Web connections to anyone who wants one. Without the cooperation of wireless carriers, it would be difficult for Internet.org to get off the ground.

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The 'Free' Deal Is an Issue for Some

The "free" offer of Internet connectivity is proving to be a major issue for critics. They argue that by offering free access to Internet.org, and thus the applications that come bundled with it, Facebook is giving preferential treatment to its partners. That, in turn, harms competition and violates network neutrality, which assumes all Internet traffic is treated equally.

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Facebook Worked With Select Few App Partners

Much of the criticism—especially in India—focuses on the concern that Facebook is working with just a select few partners. The company had deals in place with prominent app developers but would only allow applications that met very stringent rules to work on Internet.org. Critics contend this limits competition on the Web and ensures that the millions who have connected through Internet.org so far can only work with Facebook's approved partners.

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Facebook Has Opened Development to Others

Responding to the critics, Facebook in April announced that it was opening Internet.org to any and all developers. Facebook thought that the move would allay concerns about equality. However, all that did was stoke the flames.

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Critics Say Facebook's Rules Are Still Too Restrictive

Now critics are objecting to the rules Facebook is enforcing for developers who want to build apps for Internet.org. Facebook says that while anyone can build apps for Internet.org, it won't approve certain data-intensive apps or video apps. In addition, all apps must be free and approved by Facebook to run on Internet.org. Facebook is the final arbiter of what gets to play on the network, and it's being criticized for that.

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Facebook Says Some Internet Is Better Than None

Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a column in India earlier this year that providing Internet service to people in emerging markets even with some limits is far better than leaving them with no Web access at all. So rather than complain about competition, Zuckerberg says, Internet.org should be celebrated for giving people something.

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Public Good or Facebook's Gain?

Since Internet.org's founding two years ago, debate has raged over whether it is truly an open-handed public service. There is a lingering belief that Facebook's move with Internet.org is self-serving and will only give the company more power and wealth by creating in effect a captive audience that it can channel content and advertising to, further bolstering its position as the world's dominant social network. It's worth noting that Facebook is the only prominent social network on Internet.org, which limits the options for people who want to connect with friends and family. Facebook argues that it's offering Internet.org for all the right reasons. But competitors say the service is self-serving and its real goal is to help the company generate more cash. Image 9: Please use this image:

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Critics Want the Entire Internet

Finally, there's the question of how much Internet content should be allowed through Internet.org. As mentioned, Internet.org currently only supports select applications and sites that match up with Facebook's policies. Facebook's critics say that Internet.org should be little more than a gateway to the entire Internet that would allow people to explore at will. It's a nice thought, but considering how few people have high-speed Internet access and the disposable income to pay for it, it's still pie-in-the-sky for two-thirds of the world's population.

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