All sorts of people are denouncing, but it looks OK to me. Maybe I’m wrong. If someone convinces me that I am, then I’ll update this post with an explanation of why it’s a bad thing, and of course link to the evidence.

What it is · Near as I can tell, it’s a service, funded by Facebook, where less-well-off people in less-developed parts of the world can get bits of the Internet for free, notably including Facebook and Wikipedia. (But I do have to say that it’s damn hard to find a listing of what beyond that is actually on

Lots of people, including sane-sounding Net-neutrality advocates, are upset; this story at the BBC seems to cover their talking points reasonably well.

Why it doesn’t bother me · People, who otherwise wouldn’t, get Wikipedia for free. That seems like a wonderful thing!

And yeah, they also get Facebook whether they want it or need it or not. I’ll be honest; I don’t much care for Facebook. But is it so pernicious as to counterbalance the benefits of opening up Wikipedia to huge numbers of the impoverished? I’m really having trouble with that equation.

The people who use may be poor but that doesn’t mean they’re stupid; they’ll understand perfectly well that they’re only getting a stripped-down Facebook-centric version of the real thing.

There is a legit gripe: doesn’t support HTTPS, privacy by default. But they acknowledge that and they say they’re working on it. (You may have to search forward in that awful Facebook page; look for “lame”.)

Like TV · How is this different from classic over-the-air television? You don’t pay for it but every hour has 15 minutes of ads. Is it non-neutral that there are ads from some companies but not others? And that there are no specialty niche cable channels? Well yeah, but it’s still a pretty good bargain for lots of people.

What am I missing? · Seriously: Convince me that I’m wrong and this space, which has pretty good Google-juice, will be occupied by an phillipic.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Miguel (May 20 2015, at 19:16)

Both sides are hyping it up more than it deserves, it's too lame to attract The Next Billion Users™. The way it works is users are required to already have a phone, a pay-per-byte plan and have cell phone data coverage. If they use's app, or Facebook's app, they don't get bandwidth charges. It's also kind of a trap because the web is hyperlinked, so at any time you can click a link and be taken out of the free-zone. Google Search especially seems like a trap since every link takes you out of the free zone.

You can see the free basic services on Airtel Zambia here

Here is the app on Google Play. It does have generally positive reviews.


From: Lucian Pintilie (May 20 2015, at 20:23)

I think is a bad thing for all the reasons expressed in the BBC article. It is a battle for market share between the big companies fought on territories not available yet to all the players. Because of this it is also imoral. It misleads people by presenting itself in a good light. In fact it is a stepping stone towards crippled competition in the future, when eventually those countries would have the proper means to experience the full Internet. Facebook hopes that by then it will be synonymous with Internet in those countries.


From: SEV (May 20 2015, at 20:52)

i think you may be underestimating how much the audience for this service will understand about it. This is basically Fscebook's ploy to "be the Internet" for the next billion. Like Google is the Internet for less savvy tech users today.

Incidentally, the advertising in over the air TV isn't the primary decider of what content is created. You, the viewer, make a show popular, which drives advertising. Which is where the analogy you mention fails. Facebook is the co-ordinator for what sites are on It's not a somewhat neutral user-driven choice.


From: Gord Wait (May 20 2015, at 21:48)

Consider the idea that only Facebook ads will be shown, and considering that EU internet providers are talking about blocking Google ads on the open web, it seems to me a clever play by Facebook to dodge the whole government interference of the open web.

Good or bad? Is Mark Zuckerberg a sociopath or not? Same question really.


From: Doug (May 21 2015, at 03:44)

Hasn't the whole net-neutrality battle been about stopping larger corporate websites from paying for preferential access to users?

It might seem different because netflix was being extorted while facebook is paying willingly but the upshot is the same. Small innovators are locked out of the market by artificial price constraints. The internet stagnates.

Your analogy with television is pretty apt because it may be free for the viewers but if you'd like to make your own show and get it broadcast you're going to need a few million dollars.

I'm not sure how the app looks now but users are going to want to know when they drift off the freeweb into paid-space. The logical outcome is that on these users' browsers a little red flag is going to start appearing next to any website not endorsed by facebook.

Come on, Tim. You want a little red flag on your website, driving the next billion internet users away? Don't be fooled by the token inclusion of wikipedia, this is a corporation trying to shape users' browsing habits beyond the frontiers of their own website.


From: Doug (May 21 2015, at 06:58)

The more I think about this the worse an idea it sounds. Something we're beginning to understand about foreign aid and development in poor countries is that there is no magic bullet, no one-size-fits-all solution. Time and time again the most effective strategy is local solutions to local problems

The internet is an incredible opportunity for communities all over the world to develop new and innovative ways to self-organise and cooperate better to become more efficient with the few resources that are available to them. If larger entities are allowed to build in a price advantage at the network level then the opportunity for local innovation is wasted.

Studies have shown that better allocation of limited nursing staff in some regions can lead to significantly better health outcomes. A hypothetical app for scheduling in-home nurse visits needs to be sensitive to all sorts of local factors such as population density, religious needs. A young African Mark Zuckerberg with first-hand understanding of local requirements has as much chance as anyone of creating an app that can have a real impact on the lives of the poor, but if the poor are accessing the internet via the app then he is shut out.

Instead we'll be reading headlines about how the internet has improved the lives of the poor by giving them better access to pfizer.


From: Rob (May 22 2015, at 05:46)

"...we should make some slight provision for the Poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir."

"Are there no prisons?"

"Plenty of prisons..."

"And the Union workhouses." demanded Scrooge. "Are they still in operation?"

"Both very busy, sir..."

"Those who are badly off must go there."

"Many can't go there; and many would rather die."

"If they would rather die," said Scrooge, "they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population."


From: Panos Astithas (May 26 2015, at 00:25)

"The peo­ple who use In­ter­ may be poor but that doesn’t mean they’re stupid; they’ll un­der­stand per­fect­ly well that they’re on­ly get­ting a stripped-down Facebook-centric ver­sion of the re­al thing."

Will they? People in those areas seem to confuse "the Internet" and "Facebook" as a recent survey showed:

From that article:

"At Davos this year, Sandberg told the well-heeled crowd that in the developing world, “people will walk into phone stores and say ‘I want Facebook.’ People actually confuse Facebook and the Internet in some places.” Or as Iris Orriss, Facebook’s head of localization and internationalization, has put it, “Awareness of the Internet in developing countries is very limited. In fact, for many users, Facebook is the Internet, as it’s often the only accessible application.” (Emphasis in the original.)"


From: steve (May 27 2015, at 01:02)

I'll just drop this here:


author · Dad
colophon · rights
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May 20, 2015
· Business (126 fragments)
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· The World (148 fragments)
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