Facebook on Monday announced that Internet.org, an initiative designed to bring people in emerging markets online, is opening its windows to entrepreneurs and developers who want to build services that integrate with it.
The offer has a set of strict clauses attached to it. The users have to adhere to the three core principles laid by Internet.org-
Firstly, Facebook asserted that all supported services must allow for the “exploration of the broader Internet wherever possible.” The services must not limit a person’s ability to get online and see Web pages. Internet.org providers must also offer their services for free and require only minimal bandwidth. Facebook said that several high-bandwidth services, including VoIP offerings, like Skype, video sites and file-transfer platforms, won’t be allowed into the Internet.org platform. Finally, sites and services built with Internet.org in mind must work on both feature phones and smartphones.
The guidelines also further explain the encryption limitations. Internet.org traffic is routed through a proxy “to create a standard traffic flow so that operators can properly identify and zero rate your service.”
This step is taken as a response to the critics who claim that Internet.org is actually stifling a free and open Internet. It faced criticism because of Facebook’s decision to handpick the companies and services that can use Internet.org’s platform. Some critics, including many in India where Internet.org operates, argue that Facebook is delivering the millions of people it has brought online to its preferred services- including its own social network and messaging offerings, and limits the ability for other providers to access users. Those critics are of opinion that Internet.org is in direct conflict to Net neutrality as it provides special treatment to free services and harming competing web providers that operate on the Web, but can only be accessed outside of Internet.org, reports Cnet.
Commenting on the matter, Mark Zuckerberg said, “Internet.org doesn’t block or throttle any other services, or create fast lanes…If you can’t afford to pay for connectivity, it is always better to have some access and voice than none at all.” Further defending his service against the allegations, he added, “We will never prevent people accessing other services, and we will not use fast lanes.”
Internet.org allies with mobile networks to render access to free basic Web services via its mobile app and the website, along with other partner mobile Web browsers. It is currently available in Africa, Latin America and Asia. So far, Internet.org has offered a few dozen Web services in each country, such as Wikipedia, Facebook Messenger, UNICEF’s Facts of Life health site and local news sites. Internet.org mobile partners and Web services adhere to guidelines established by Facebook to ensure users receive free access and aren’t limped by slow data speed.
Although Facebook’s announcement said the goal is to let users “explore the entire Internet,” that will not include high-bandwidth services.
“Websites that require high-bandwidth will not be included,” Facebook wrote. “Services should not use VoIP, video, file transfer, high resolution photos, or high volume of photos.” Even the version of Facebook that would be available on the Internet.org app shall have the same limitation.