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Amidst net neutrality debate, Facebook opens Internet.Org platform to all developers

Social media networking
giant Facebook recently announced that the company is turning Internet.org, its
project to provide free internet to new users,
into
a platform
.

Social media networking
giant Facebook recently announced that the company is turning Internet.org, its
project to provide free internet to new users,
into
a platform
.

The move comes
amid criticism of the program’s “walled garden” approach to hand-picking
services, and claims that it violates the principles of net neutrality, reports
TechCrunch. In India, over the last month, the drama of net neutrality
continues and is unlikely to quiet down anytime soon. The topic continues to be
of interest on social media, mainstream news channels, publishers – both online
and offline.

Criticism of net
neutrality has been particularly strong in India, where a zero rating program
from operator
Airtel ignited the issue
. Facebook lost a number of partners
in India
, who withdrew
from Internet.org
in response to the debate.

In a blog
post
, Facebook said, “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.”

In addition, on
the user side of things, Facebook said that Internet.org users will soon be
able to venture beyond the initial limits of the portal and search for, and
use, new third-party services. In other words, Internet.org will go from being
a static portal to a basic (and free) layer of Internet.

While the
platform will be open to all prospective developers, there are three central
principles that partners must adhere to, Facebook said:

  1. “Services
    should encourage the exploration of the broader internet wherever possible.” —
    this is fairly vague, but it looks to imply that locking users inside your app
    isn’t ok.
  2. “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.” — Facebook
    points out that operators are giving up resources for the project for free, so
    this is a limit to prevent them totally being taken to the cleaners.
  3. Facebook
    expects partner services to be optimized for smartphones and feature phones,
    and be free from JavaScript or SSL/TLS/HTTPS elements.

According to a
TechCrunch report, Facebook and its operator partners for Internet.org have
been accused of taking a “king-maker” role because they choose the services
that are included in the free Internet portal, and potentially promoted to millions
of new users. By opening up the platform the company is hoping to levels things
off, on paper at least.

“We’re building
an open platform, and anyone who meets these guidelines will be able to participate,”
Facebook added in the post.

Internet.org was
first available in a handful of African countries, but it has since expanded to
Asia with launches in India (population of 1 billion-plus) and Indonesia
(population of 250 million) among others.

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