Facebook Announces Internet.org Platform

In 2013, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the launch of Internet.org, a global partnership program intended to bring Internet access to every single person on the the planet. Last week, Zuckerberg announced the "next step" for Internet.org, the Internet.org Platform. The platform constitutes an open program for developers to create basic connected services at no cost.

Zuckerberg explained that Internet.org will support "two important principles" that "must co-exist" for the world to fully enjoy the potential of the Internet: "connecting everyone in the world and net neutrality."

The Internet.org Platform invites any individual or company to join Facebook and partners to create basic, free services that attract new users to the Internet. Zuckerberg gave examples of basic services that include healthcare, job listings and education. Critics of Internet.org have largely cited its walled-off approach that limited development under the project to handpicked Facebook partners. The open, platform approach addresses the criticism with the open invitation to anyone with the desire to connect the world. Zuckerberg openly addressed the criticism, and the tens of billions of dollars required to maintain the Internet on a yearly basis, but suggested that the basic services offered through Internet.org constitute a sustainable model through the new users the platform will attract. He suggested that free access to the Internet should be thought of through a lens similar to anti-discrimination laws.

For developers, the platform requires a few technical guidelines and specifications. Apps must use data efficiently. Facebook understands that operators represent the first step in connecting users. To encourage such operators to continue investing in broader networks, the platform will not include VoIP, video, file transfer, high-resolution photos or a high volume of photos for the time being. Next, developers must build websites optimized for mobile browsing and limited bandwidth scenarios. Websites must integrate with Internet.org; therefore, such websites cannot require JavaScript or SSL/ TLS/ HTTPS. Those interested should read the technical guidelines.

With no ads, an open invitation to the entire world, and the straightforward goal of attracting users and connecting the world, Facebook seems to have addressed the "walled garden" criticism of Internet.org. As the platform matures, we will see if Facebook's attempt succeeds. Eighty percent of the world lives within range of Internet access, but only 30% of the world is connected. Is Internet.org the platform to narrow that gap?

Be sure to read the next Open Source article: OpenStack Powered Initiative Highlights Single API Approach