As different parties, including the government, debate net neutrality laws, Internet.org, the platform that allows users to access stripped-down versions of select websites free of cost, opens itself to one and all.
As different parties, including the government, debate net neutrality laws, Internet.org, the platform that allows users to access stripped-down versions of select websites free of cost, opens itself to one and all. Chris Daniels, VP – Products at Internet.org at Facebook, in an interview with Sunny Sen talks about the future of the platform. Excerpts
What is the larger goal of Internet.org?
Facebook’s mission is to make the world better connected and Internet.org’s purpose is to connect two-thirds of the world, which is not connected at the moment. Research has shown that for every billion people you connect, you lift a 100 million out of poverty. We have shown that we have brought 8 million people online.
Our vision is to open up the platform so that consumers can come online and find services that are of value to them personally, and be able to access them. A couple of things remain the same: nobody pays to be a part of Internet.org. no developer pays, and neither is Facebook paying for data. this is basically about a customer acquisition vehicle for all operators.
How does opening up the platform change things for Internet.org?
We give the developer a set of guidelines and he builds the site so that it is compliant, approved and able to be searched by the user. These are all going to be websites.
You are doing this at a time when there is so much talk of net neutrality.
Our goal has always been to put in as many basic services as possible with Internet.org. We have been following closely the discussion in India, and Mark (Zuckerberg) wrote about it in his opinion edit. We believe in net neutrality strongly, but we also believe that programmes that bring people online need to co-exist. The feedback from India was about greater consumer choice and more developers joining the programme.
Isn’t it contradictory for net neutrality and free services to co-exist?
The strongest interpretation of net neutrality is that there should not be any free services at all. But what I fundamentally believe, and what is reflected in Mark’s op-ed, is that you must have net neutrality and programmes that bring more people online.
Isn’t Internet.org more of a seeding service today?
That is correct. For this to work for operators, it needs to be a customer acquisition tool.
What’s operators’ reaction to the initiative?
We have launched Internet.org in nine countries and we have more nations coming. The value proposition for an operator is that if the first experience of the internet is on Internet.org, it speeds the pace of bringing people them online. The operators will make money by selling service packages.
Doesn’t it help Facebook generate more advertising revenue?
That’s not true. There are no ads in Facebook on the Internet.org version. So there is no economic benefit. You need to be a (data) paying user to see ads on Facebook.
What is your target in India?
There is a magic number out there — to have all of India online. This is a long-term programme.
Do you think we need net neutrality laws?
I think each country has unique needs in terms of the method of governance, whether it’s laws or regulatory guidelines.
Have you met government officials on the matter of net neutrality?
I have been in India the past couple of weeks and spoken with many constituents. We have heard the debate and have spoken to people on various sides of the debate.