Facebook has renamed its Internet.org platform's app and website to ‘Free Basics’. The platform now has more than 60 new services in 19 countries spread across Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Facebook has also made the Internet.org platform live for all the developers to include their services. There are various guidelines to be followed by developers like making content data efficient, and websites to be optimized for both feature phones and smartphones. Additonally, Facebook is adding HTTPS support to the web version, to make it more secure. This was annouced for the Free Basics app earlier.
The Free Basics app is a free Android app which lets users access various websites and basic services across categories like health, education, jobs etc. for free. It is aimed towards providing a platform to users where the Internet is less affordable, and don’t have internet access, and help them experience it for free. The platform includes various websites and services which helps users learn new things. Some of them are BabyCenter & MAMA, Babajobs, BBC News, UNICEF, etc. The users can search for services using the name or description, and add their favourite ones to their list of services for even faster access. There is also an option for getting content in local language, if supported by the particular service. As the app is available in 19 countries, the particular type of services may vary country-wise. Additionally, Facebook has partnered with mobile operators around the world for providing the services free of cost to users. In India, the Free Basics app and website can be accessed on the Reliance network.
Talking about the Free Basics app earlier, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO said, “After launching free basic services, mobile operators are seeing people adopt mobile data 50% faster than before. More than half the new people coming online through Internet.org choose to pay for data and access more internet services within the first 30 days. In June, people used Internet.org to access online health services more than one million times.”
Although Facebook is in process of convincing others that the Internet.org platform is helping users in connecting to Internet for free, it has been a part of controversies as well. In India, it was accused of being against Net Neutrality. Accusations have pointed towards Facebook for trying to act as a “gatekeeper” of the Internet, by allowing users to access only those services and websites which are allowed by it. Many users had also complained about not being able to use Google via Internet.org. While defending the platform, Zuckerberg has said, “To give more people access to the internet, it is useful to offer some service for free. If someone can’t afford to pay for connectivity, it is always better to have some access than none at all." The company has also opened the platform for all the developers to give more choices of free services to users, and it believes that the move will help Internet.org to be more transparent. As of now, Facebook’s Internet.org platfrom is a topic of debate for whether it really supports the Internet freedom, or discriminates between websites and services.