Facebook opens Internet.org to developers after Net Neutrality disaster

New chapters are continuously being added to the Net Neutrality saga of India as time is passing. Latest event has come from Silicon Valley as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has decided to open his Internet.org initiative to all content developers after company’s platform attracted public outrage in India for being in violation of Net Neutrality. And while he still persists that Internet.org isn’t in violation of Net Neutrality, this can be seen as a big win by all those 1 million users who stood up for Net Neutrality.

As you may know already, the criticism for Net Neutrality violation in our country has been quite strong. Major companies that were violating the principle with their products faced severe backlash on social media sites after SaveTheInternet campaign went live. Two particular companies that that attracted the most amount of criticism were Bharti Airtel and Flipkart particularly because of badly-timed launch of Airtel Zero, but soon Facebook’s ambitious Internet.org project also caught the fire and started earning criticism.

Mark Zuckerberg stepped into the situation to protect his project from public outrage and tried to position the project as a charitable move rather than a profitable one by saying things like “some connectivity is better than none” and “Universal connectivity and Net Neutrality both can and should co-exist.” However, his arguments couldn’t convince the Net Neutrality favoring crowd. People logically raised the question of transparency on company’s “walled-garden” approach in selecting content partners.

As this backlash was becoming severe with each passing day, another major setback came for Zuckerberg from content partners who had previously partnered with Facebook for the project. Several big names including Times Group, Cleartrip, NDTV and Newshunt decided to pull themselves out of the project and stand for Net Neutrality instead. This significantly increased the pressure of pulling out on other content partners as well.

Now it seems like Facebook has taken at least a few lessons from this entire fiasco as company has opened Internet.org to all outside developers as long as they comply with the following guidelines:

  • Developers willing to participate can’t lock users into their apps – they need to encourage the exploration of broader internet wherever possible.
  • They can’t include bandwidth-intensive content or fetures like videos, high-resolution images and VoIP etc. into their apps.
  • And finally, their services need to be optimized for smartphones and feature phones. They can’t include JavaScript or SSL/TLS/HTTPS elements into their services if they want to get involved as a partner.

This open-platform approach may quell some amount of criticism, but it remains to be seen that how many companies will now be interested in partnering with Facebook for this project. Especially for startups that’re growing rapidly and have their resources crunched already because of unexpected growth. [source]

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