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Facebook opens up Internet.org to developers: Here are all the rules

Even as Facebook faced criticism for its Internet.org platform in India over the Net Neutrality debate, the company has now launched the Internet.org platform, aimed at developers.

By: Tech Desk Written by Shruti Dhapola | Updated: May 5, 2015 1:58:16 pm
Facebook, Facebook Internet.org, Internet.org platform, Technology, Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s Internet.org platform is now open for developers.

Even as Facebook faced criticism for its Internet.org platform in India over the Net Neutrality debate, the company has now launched the Internet.org platform, which is aimed at developers.

According to an official post by Facebook, the Internet.org Platform is an “open program for developers to easily create services that integrate with Internet.org.”

Facebook notes in the blogpost that the core of Internet.org is “non-exclusive partnerships with mobile operators to offer free basic internet services to people through Internet.org.”

Facebook had launched Internet.org in India in February 2015 with Reliance Communications and the app offered some select services for free (the ones that had partnered with Facebook). This was also seen as a violation of Net Neutrality, although Facebook said that there was no monetary exchange to offer these services as free.

Now with Internet.org platform, developers who meet some select guidelines will be able to participate in the programme and thus Facebook is hoping that it will some way avoid the furore over Net Neutrality.

The guidelines for participation as outlined by Facebook in its blog are:

1) Explore the entire Internet:  Facebook’s post notes that “the Internet.org Platform aims to give people valuable free services that they can use to discover the entire wealth of online services and, ultimately become paying users of the Internet.”

So app developers who want to create services for Internet.org should encourage “exploration of the broader internet wherever possible.” Facebook hasn’t specified though how it expects developers to do this.

2) Efficiency: Given that Internet.org is aimed at those who cannot afford expensive handsets or high-speed data connectivity, Facebook says developers need to build data efficient apps.

The blogpost reads, “Internet.org needs to be sustainable for operators so that they can continue to invest in the infrastructure to maintain, improve and expand their networks.” Any site that requires “high-bandwidth” are automatically going to be out and Facebook says services should not use “VoIP, video, file transfer, high resolution photos, or high volume of photos.”

3) Technical specifications: Facebook says the websites should be optimised so that users can browse them on “feature and smartphones and in limited bandwidth scenarios”.

The post adds that “websites must be properly integrated with Internet.org to allow zero rating and therefore can’t require JavaScript or SSL/TLS/HTTPS.

Facebook is hoping that with an open Internet.org platform it can encourage more e app developers to create websites and services and thus shed the tag that its services are too restrictive. Of course it is also asking developers to be more data-efficient and in tune with needs of those who can’t really afford high-end smartphones.

Previously Mark Zuckerberg had written a defense of the Internet.org in light of the Net Neutrality debate, saying that he disagreed that Internet.org was violation of the latter principle.

He had said in a post,“Internet.org doesn’t block or throttle any other services or create fast lanes — and it never will. We’re open for all mobile operators and we’re not stopping anyone from joining. We want as many internet providers to join so as many people as possible can be connected.”

“Arguments about net neutrality shouldn’t be used to prevent the most disadvantaged people in society from gaining access or to deprive people of opportunity. Eliminating programs that bring more people online won’t increase social inclusion or close the digital divide. It will only deprive all of us of the ideas and contributions of the two thirds of the world who are not connected. Every person in the world deserves access to the opportunities the internet provides. And we can all benefit from the perspectives, creativity and talent of the people not yet connected,” he had added.

With Zuckerberg opening the platform to more developers, it remains to be seen how many will come on board for Internet.org. Where the Net Neutrality question is concerned, the questions being raises against Facebook and Internet.org are unlikely to die down soon.

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