Social Media

Facebook to open up free access initiative to developers

| | Updated on: May 04, 2015
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Net neutrality backlash forces shift in stance

Facebook on Monday opened up its Internet.org platform for developers.

The platform, until now, allowed consumers to access some websites without having to pay any data charges. The new initiative will allow start-ups and emerging entrepreneurs to get their websites to be part of the free offering.

This comes after Internet activists and users criticised Facebook for going against the principles of net neutrality by giving preferential access to only some websites. The backlash, especially in India, forced several partners including Makemytrip and NDTV to exit the Internet.org initiative.

Facebook is hoping that the move to open the platform to developers will address the criticism.

Founder Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a blog post that the company wanted to offer services through Internet.org in a way that’s more transparent and inclusive.

In India, Facebook has a partnership with Reliance Communications for the Internet.org initiative. RCom users are able to access about 30 websites without paying any data charges. This is part of Facebook’s attempts to make available cheap Internet access to the next billion users. But critics say this is only a means to make Facebook accessible to a wider audience.

By opening the platform to developers, Facebook has made it more inclusive but this could hurt the telecom operators as they will have to subsidise a larger number of websites. To address the telecom operators’ concerns, Facebook has put in place conditions for those who want to be on the platform.

To qualify, developers must meet three criteria. The website cannot be data-intensive. There cannot be any videos, high-resolution photos and internet-based voice and video chats. The site should be compatible with feature phones and it should encourage users to move beyond the free sites and ultimately pay for access.

“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,” Facebook said in a post.

Published on January 23, 2018

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