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May 4, 2015

Facebook’s Internet.org Launches Open Platform to Developers

After Being Accused of Violating Net Neutrality, Internet.org Offers Users More Choice Over Free Basic Services

Photo by Brian Solis — Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg giving his F8 Keynote.

Facebook is taking action after being accused of ignoring Net neutrality rules in its Internet.org initiative.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg today announced the Internet.org Platform, an open program permitting developers to create services that integrate with Internet.org.

Zuckerberg also said people using Internet.org’s services will now have more choice over the free basic services they can use.

“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,” he said. “To do this, we’re going to offer services through Internet.org in a way that’s more transparent and inclusive.”

The move comes just a few weeks after Internet.org’s ambitions for India met with opposition. Some of the partners criticized the organization of failing to adhere to Net neutrality rules.

Travel site Cleartrip.com and media conglomerate Times Group both said they would no longer partner with the group because Internet.org was only offering access to select sites, instead of making all websites and apps equally accessible.

Zuckerberg said the purpose of Internet.org — a global initiative to make Internet access available to five billion new households in underdeveloped areas by 2023 — is to have non-exclusive partnerships with mobile operators to offer free basic Internet services. Thus far, Internet.org was offering basic access to a group of core sites such as AccuWeather; BabyCenter and MAMA; BBC News; Bing Search; Facebook; Facts for Life (a UNICEF Product); Girl Effect; Messenger and Wikipedia as well as a number of sites relevant to the country being serviced.

“These websites are very simple and data efficient, so operators can offer these for free in an economically sustainable way. Websites do not pay to be included, and operators don’t charge developers for the data people use for their services,” Zuckerberg said.

“Because these services have to be specially built to these specifications, we started by offering just a few. But giving people more choice over the services they use is incredibly important and going forward, people using Internet.org will be able to search for and use services that meet these guidelines. We’re building an open platform and anyone who meets these guidelines will be able to participate.”

Below are the participation guidelines as posted by Facebook:

Guidelines for participation

  1. Explore the entire internet

The goal of Internet.org is to allow more people to experience the benefits of being online.

For most people who aren’t online, the biggest barrier to connecting isn’t lack of infrastructure – more than 80 percent 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.

The Internet.org Platform aims to give people valuable free services that they can use to discover the entire wealth of online services and, ultimately become paying users of the internet.

Services should encourage the exploration of the broader internet wherever possible.

  1. Efficiency

To sustainably deliver free basic internet services to people, we need to build apps that use data very efficiently.

Operators have made significant economic investments to bring the internet to people globally, and Internet.org needs to be sustainable for operators so that they can continue to invest in the infrastructure to maintain, improve and expand their networks.

Websites that require high-bandwidth will not be included. Services should not use VoIP, video, file transfer, high resolution photos, or high volume of photos.

  1. Technical specifications

Websites must be built to be optimized for browsing on both feature and smartphones and in limited bandwidth scenarios. In addition, websites must be properly integrated with Internet.org to allow zero rating and therefore can’t require JavaScript or SSL/TLS/HTTPS and must meet these technical guidelines.

For more information on how to work with Internet.org, visit www.internet.org/platform

 


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Jennifer Cowan is the Managing Editor for SiteProNews.

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