Facebook Retools, Rebrands Internet.org as Free Basics

The announcement comes days before Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to visit Facebook\'s campus in California on September 27.

Published: 25th September 2015 11:39 AM  |   Last Updated: 25th September 2015 11:39 AM   |  A+A-


According to Facebook's Government Requests Report, the number of entries blocked out by India stood at 15,155 in January-June 2015, compared with 5,832 in July-December 2014. | (File/Reuters)


NEW YORK: Social networking giant Facebook is rebranding its Internet.org programme, which was in the midst of a controversy over alleged violation of Net neutrality, to 'Free Basics'.

Armed with more services and stronger security measures, the rebranding will help Facebook distinguish the free basic Internet offering from the large number of activities the US-based company is pursuing to help get new users online across the globe.

The announcement comes days before Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to visit Facebook's campus in California on September 27.

"We're making this change to better distinguish the Internet.org initiative from the programmes and services that Facebook provides, including Free Basics. Anyone currently using the app will be able to continue using the Android app though it will now be called Free Basics by Facebook in Google Play. And the mobile Web version, which will redirect from the previous URL, can be accessed at Freebasics.com," Internet.org Vice-President Chris Daniels told PTI.

He added that more than one billion people have access to Internet.org's free basic services across Asia, Africa and Latin America today.

Launched last year, the programme has more than a dozen mobile operators on board across 17 countries offering basic Internet services without data charges to over a billion people. The programme aims to provide people with access to free basic services through Internet.org to help them discover the value of the Internet.

"Internet.org is working well. The programme has made an impact on people's lives by providing free health, education, and economic information. For example, SmartBusiness, a Website that helps people learn to launch and run a business, now sees 5x more daily searches within their service since the launch in South Africa in July. This means that more people are getting access to important economic information," he said.

India has over 8 lakh users of the Internet.org initiative that has been in the thick of the Net neutrality debate. As part of the global initiative, Facebook had partnered with telecom major Reliance Communications to offer free access to over 30 Websites without data charges to users in India.

Facebook faced criticism for launching the platform as it is seen violating the principle of Net neutrality, which is against any priority being accorded to an entity in the Internet traffic flow because of payments to service providers such as telecom companies.

Following a walkout by many of its publisher partners in India, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg had come out in defence of the programme, saying it did not block or throttle services and is not in conflict with Net neutrality.     

Daniels said the company has been in discussions with stakeholders to present its view on the issue.     

"We have been in discussions with various stakeholders. We maintain that Internet.org is a medium to take Internet to the masses to help them understand the benefits of the worldwide Web," he said.    

Daniels further said: "There is no exclusivity with Reliance in India. We are in discussions with more telecom operators in the country to join the platform. But the unfounded criticism has slowed the conversation. Hopefully, we will soon have more partners on board."     

He reiterated that the company does not pay telecom operators for the data, but the service providers do see benefit as "people move on to paid services soon".     

In May, Facebook had also announced an open programme for developers to create services that integrate with Internet.org.     

"Over the past few months, developers have adapted their services specifically for the Internet.org platform requirements, and today, more than 80 free basic services are available in India," Facebook Director Product Partnerships Ime Archibong said. "We saw a huge amount of enthusiasm from developers in India who have helped expand the range of resources that can be made available to people, giving them more choice and control over the services they can use through the app and Website."     

Among the new services on the platform in India are English Dost, MeraDoctor, M-Kisan, My Rights and SkyMet.     

With Free Basics, Internet org is also "making it safer" for people to connect to the Websites and services by encrypting information wherever possible.    

"Several months ago, we announced support for services using HTTPS in the Free Basics Android app, and today, we're adding support for HTTPS services on the Web version as well. This will ensure security of data for the end user. We are also ensuring our privacy policy is listed clearly so that people know how and where we are using their data," he said.

Stay up to date on all the latest World news with The New Indian Express App. Download now
(Get the news that matters from New Indian Express on WhatsApp. Click this link and hit 'Click to Subscribe'. Follow the instructions after that.)


Disclaimer : We respect your thoughts and views! But we need to be judicious while moderating your comments. All the comments will be moderated by the newindianexpress.com editorial. Abstain from posting comments that are obscene, defamatory or inflammatory, and do not indulge in personal attacks. Try to avoid outside hyperlinks inside the comment. Help us delete comments that do not follow these guidelines.

The views expressed in comments published on newindianexpress.com are those of the comment writers alone. They do not represent the views or opinions of newindianexpress.com or its staff, nor do they represent the views or opinions of The New Indian Express Group, or any entity of, or affiliated with, The New Indian Express Group. newindianexpress.com reserves the right to take any or all comments down at any time.

flipboard facebook twitter whatsapp