Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg intends to connect everyone together via the Internet on a global scale. To accomplish this feat, the Facebook chief hopes to bring Free Basics, which is formerly known as Internet.org, to the world's second most populous country: India.
Internet.org made its first appearance in India in February, but it was not received well. Internet activists were quick to shoot down Zuckerberg's plan, saying that it's just a way to target India's poor for the social media firm's profit and a way to block out rival companies from the scene.
In just a short time since the Internet.org suite's debut, others have banded together and started a blog called Save the Internet to fight for India's Net Neutrality. However, Facebook is determined to push this project through, reworking the suite and rebranding it as Free Basics.
With more than a billion people without an Internet connection in India, Zuckerberg is resolute in bringing the project there.
"But to continue connecting the world, we have to connect India. More than a billion people in India don't have access to the Internet," Zuckerberg said on a Facebook post.
Free Basics gives users access to limited job databases and news and information sites, and it comes with a text-only Facebook. This low-cost version and restricted capabilities are to keep bandwidth costs minimal. Zuckerberg argues that this is a humanitarian project.
"If we were only focused on making money, there are many other things we'd do before Internet.org," Zuckerberg replied to a comment on the Facebook post when the project was accused to solely boost the firm's ad revenue.
However, online critics pointed out that this is just Facebook's way of getting ahead in the competition, as people who are new to the Internet will be immediately introduced to the social media firm's services first.
Free Basics is exclusively available through Reliance Communications in India, which is described as a slow network with poor coverage compared to Vodafone and Airtel, the country's forerunners in the market.
Since Internet.org came to India in February, Facebook's VP of product of Internet.org Chris Daniels said that the suite has allowed about one million Indians to connect to the Internet for the first time, with 40 percent signing up for paid data plans and 5 percent staying with the free services. This was seen as Facebook's marketing schemes to get users to sign up for paid plans from Reliance taking effect.
To make his intentions clear, the Facebook chief will be going to Delhi, India, on Oct. 28 for a Q&A session.
Facebook continually reworks this project to satisfy all sides, taking into account every feedback, though it seems that the social media firm must focus on improving connectivity in India first before it can go ahead with its plans to bring billions to the Internet.