Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and founder of Facebook, has announced the launch of its new project Internet.org that is aimed at broadening Internet access in emerging countries and increasing the number of people using the Internet.
The new platform will enable people in such regions as Latin America, Asia and Africa to use various online services without charge.
“Our goal with Internet.org is to work with as many developers and entrepreneurs as possible to extend the benefits of connectivity to diverse, local communities. To do this, we’re going to offer services through Internet.org in a way that’s more transparent and inclusive,” Facebook stated in a post on its website.
Under the project, the company has partnered with mobile operators to ensure free Internet access for users of Internet.org.
There is only a limited range of websites and online services that will be available for users of the new platform. These websites include Facebook, Wikipedia, the Facts for Life health site operated by the United Nations Children’s Fund, BBC News, Accuweather as well as a number of local news and sports results providers. In addition, the company plans to partner with other developers that will join the project.
These online services have to be data efficient, simple and should not include video, voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP), high resolution images, high volume of photos and file transfer. Websites with high bandwidth usage will not be allowed to participate.
Internet.org has to be sustainable for operators, who invested huge amount of money to spread Internet around the world, so that they can further enhance and enlarge their networks.
With the new project, Facebook hopes to allow people to discover the benefits of online services and expects that they will finally become the paying users of the Internet.
“For most people who aren’t online, the biggest barrier to connecting isn’t lack of infrastructure – more than 80% of the world’s population already lives within range of a mobile signal. Instead, the biggest challenges are affordability of the internet, and awareness of how internet services are valuable to them,” Zuckerberg said.
However, Internet.org was criticized by net neutrality activists in India for providing an access only to a certain sites and content providers instead of others. As a result of such events, some online services providers, such as Times Group and Cleartrip, decided to leave the project.
Still, in a video on Facebook’s website, Zuckerberg noted that it is impossible to provide free access to the whole Internet, adding that it costs billions of dollars each year to run the Internet.