Hinting at what could be vital points of discussion when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg on Sunday, the social media giant has rebranded its internet access enabling platform Internet.org as Free Basics. This was announced by Chris Daniels, vice-president of Internet.org, at a press meet in Menlo Park on Friday. Zuckerberg confirmed the same and wrote on his Facebook wall.
Facebook has opened up its Free Basics platform, which means any app developer can now include their services on it. “This gives people the power to choose what apps they want to use.” Zuckerberg in his post also said the company has improved the security and privacy of Internet.org, which will support HTTPS web services as well. “Connectivity isn't an end in itself. It’s what people do with it that matters. We hope the improvements we've made help even more people get connected — so that our whole global community can benefit together,” Zuckerberg said in his post, in which he quoted the example of a soybean farmer from Maharashtra, Asif Mujhawar, who uses parenting app BabyCenter for free through Internet.org.
This is a significant move by Facebook, considering the backlash it had from various quarters in India following debates on net neutrality. Internet.org is an open platform by Facebook across 19 developing countries, including India, to enable easy access of selected apps and app-based services to people at zero cost. In India, it had partnered with Reliance Communications to offer free access to about 30 websites.
“One of the concerns was calling the service ‘Internet.org’, despite it representing only a tiny sliver of the Internet,” said Pranesh Prakash, policy director at the centre for Internet and Society, a nonprofit entity to promote safe internet access in the country.
He said by removing the Internet word, Facebook is now talking of its own larger internet affordability project and allowing app developers to build apps and host it on the Free Basic platform. “This gives people the power to choose what apps they want to use,” Prakash said.