“We arguably already have a splinternet with Mainland China and the rest of the world.”
WhatsApp CEO Will Cathcart said he was worried about the Indian government’s push for homegrown apps like Koo because it could force a ‘splinternet’, a characterization where instead of having a global internet, countries have their own regulations. “We already have a splinternet with Mainland China and the rest of the world,” Cathcart said on the Big Technology Podcast last week adding that “people benefit a lot from products that work globally.”
Koo, which is claimed to be India’s answer to Twitter for non-English users, has picked a lot of steam in the country in the wake of the Narendra Modi government’s ongoing war with the US-based micro-blogging platform. Many big-ticket politicians and celebrities have joined Koo in the wake of the ‘standoff’ giving it a major shot in the arm, something that saw it cross over 40 lakh users within no time. Koo aims to draw 10 crore users by the end of this year.
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“A lot of the decisions we’re going to make on the internet, our governments are going to make on the internet over the next 10-20 years, I think will really shape whether this is a global market, or whether each country has its own mini-internet with its own mini-apps. And I think the latter would be worse,” Cathcart said.
WhatsApp is fighting its own battles in its biggest market over a new set of terms and conditions around data and privacy, that although have been stalled until May, have become a source of grave concern for users – and the government. At the same time, the Facebook-owned company also has to contend with new laws—rules for intermediaries for instance designed to curb misuse of social media—in India that might force it to bring changes—even break—encryption.
“It’s hard for me to imagine even how you ask people to do that, I think it’s such a fundamental threat. So, we’ll stand and we’ll make our case, and we’ll argue,” Cathcart said. “My hope is, we can find something that is not breaking encryption, that addresses the concerns that’s much more reasonable.”