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Zuckerberg's zeal for free Internet shows in Internet.org video

Matt Hamblen | May 5, 2015
Wants techies to focus on people over 'purity'.

zuckerberg f8 2015

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg isn't an evangelical preacher, but his latest video promoting the new Internet.org Platform is filled with a missionary zeal for free basic Internet for the four billion people worldwide without access.

The nearly seven-minute video is also partly an ethical appeal by Zuckerberg to the tech community to put those without basic Internet service before their interest in "the intellectual purity of technology."

Even though the appeal is evidently heartfelt, almost spiritual, analysts noted that Facebook, the corporation, stands to benefit ultimately from its free basic Internet message.

"Zuckerberg's motivation is not completely altruistic; he has a company to run," said Roger Entner, an analyst at Recon Associates. "Facebook recognizes that the problem of having the Internet for all is an issue of how we pay for it. Ultimately, Internet.org is about Facebook adding more customers, even if the individual carriers for Internet.org [globally] are not profitable. There's a network effect, where everything goes up."

Near the start of the video, Zuckerburg uses an average fisherman to explain the value of the Internet in terms that may sound to some a bit like a modern-day Bible reading.

"If a local fisherman gets access to free Internet services he couldn't otherwise afford, to help him sell more fish and support his family, then that's good and we shouldn't have rules that prevent that," Zuckerberg said.

"Now if this fisherman seems like some far off case to you, remember, that if you are watching this on the Internet, most of the world lives more like that fisherman than like you. Almost two-thirds of the world's population has no Internet access."

Zuckerberg recounted how the Internet.org project has already helped mothers in a few countries with maternal health questions and students who needed study services like Wikipedia.

The purported purpose of the video is to introduce an open platform for developers to easily create services that can integrate with Internet.org. But that idea doesn't get much air time and isn't mentioned until fairly late.

The new platform itself is explained in basic terms by Facebook that urges developers to build mobile websites that don't rely on video, large images, Voice over IP or even some security features.

Stripping out such content will make it easier for basic feature phones to access Internet services and reduce the data carriers would need to offer "for free in an economically sustainable way" through Internet.org, the statement said.

The announcement came amidst criticism in India from net neutrality proponents who argued that Internet.org only provided free access to Facebook and Facebook's few preferred content providers. Some websites that had joined Internet.org threatened to leave over the controversy.

 

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