Internet.org, Facebook’s nonprofit project aiming to provide internet access to people in developing nations, has received some negative attention since it launched last February in India.
Now, Mark Zuckerberg has announced changes to the program that answer some of the net neutrality concerns brought up by the program’s critics.
Internet.org is now open to developers, giving anyone the opportunity to create a service that could be offered through Internet.org to users in developing countries.
Facebook is calling this the Internet.org Platform.
The new developer program seems to address complaints made by critics of Internet.org, who didn’t like the idea that those in developing countries who can’t afford to pay for Internet access would only be able to use apps that were hand- picked by Facebook. This, says critics, gives preferential treatment to the Facebook-selected bundled services instead of allowing consumers free choice for what they can browse online.
Facebook’s new developer program is meant to give other smaller players a chance to be part of Internet.org’s free bundled offerings.
Before making the official announcement on Monday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted a video message to users emphasising the fact that Internet.org is meant to help people — not to restrict the type of information they have access to. He described it as a service for “people who have no voice.”
Zuckerberg also hit back directly at Internet.org critics describing them as people who put the “intellectual purity of technology above people’s needs.”
Internet.org critics include The Hindustan Times’ Nikhil Pahwa, who wrote an editorial slamming Internet.org-like programs. For those sorts of free online services, he wrote, “the decisions are made by big telcos in partnership with large Internet companies.”
But, while the new Internet.org platform may have solved one problem, there’s a chance it could potentially create a headache when it comes to privacy.
For instance, as Gizmodo points out, all developer applications must be chosen by Facebook. And a telco that doesn’t want to offer a specific free service on the Internet.org app doesn’t necessarily have to.
Most importantly, any developer service chosen will have submit to Facebook’s cookie program.
“The service must allow Facebook to track users and share that data with telecom companies and the government,” writes Gizmodo.
Facebook has had a bevy of criticisms hurled its way about its user tracking programs. All the same, the company has adamantly maintained that its user tracking practices are kosher.
Developers interested in creating apps for Internet.org can apply to do so here.