Internet.Org – Good, Bad or Ugly?

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Internet.org loved by some but not others

Internet.org Unfettered Generosity or savvy business

This week Reliance Communications and Facebook have partnered to launch Internet.org in India.  For those of us out there not too familiar with Internet.org, their website states the following “Internet.org is a global partnership dedicated to making affordable internet access available to the two thirds of the world not yet connected”.  So it is a partnership between the big guys of tech and local Telcos to get Internet access (or some form of it) to the developing world.   Internet.org is a personal project of Facebook Chief Mark Zuckerberg.  Mr Zuckerberg and the Internet.org project have come under severe criticism from some unlikely sources.  Some cynics just view it as a savvy but transparent go-to-market strategy for Facebook to keep increasing its user base.  Others are wary that where Internet.org has launched their free service, Facebook is pretty much all the local population know of the Internet.  Detractors say that Facebook is essential locking out competition and locking in potential paying customers.

Mr Zuckerberg isn’t too phased about the criticism regarding Internet.org.  He agrees that while Facebook wants to help connect more people, the initiative is not about the social network. “The billion people who are already on Facebook have way, way more money than the next 6 billion people combined. If we wanted to focus on just making money, the right strategy for us would be to focus solely on the developed countries and the people already on Facebook, increasing their engagement rather than having these other folks join,” he asserts. Facebook is free and there aren’t developed ad markets in a lot of developed countries. This initiative may not be profitable for the longest time but Zuckerberg is willing to take the risk.  More here [FIRSTPOST]

 The latest foray into India sees Reliance Communications partnering with Facebook to offer free access to data and websites to customers through the social networking site’s global digital inclusion initiative, Internet.org.

The Internet.org initiative will provide access to popular websites and services with zero data charge to make it easier for people to access the Internet across both the 2G and 3G platforms, Reliance executives said at a press conference here.  “Internet is the integral part of our well being. It is tool to transform lifestyle. Data is the raw material of the information age,” said Gurdeep Singh, chief executive officer, consumer business, Reliance CommunicationsMore Here [FISRTPOST]

Facebook’s Inertnet.org and Facebook Zero are by no means the only platforms out there utilizing the “zero-rated” data concept. Wikipedia Zero has been somewhat successful in partnering with Operators.  The tech giant Google has a similar project – the Google Free Zone, but only a handful of operators have signed with them.

There is strong sentiment on the Net Neutrality/Open Internet front that zero-rating is at least bad and sometimes downright ugly.  Their big concerns are barriers to competition both from a pricing point of view (free vs. paid) and from an awareness point of view – in some countries people assume Internet.org or Wikipedia is the Internet. 

For some, this is a tough philosophical debate.  How does that saying go?  If you give a man a fish he eats for a day?  If you pay him to get his own fish…  What if he does like fish? 

Good, Bad or Ugly – what’s your take?  

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