Facebook’s Internet.org Launches in Indonesia, Brings Wattpad And Controversy With it

14793178854_2302b5a9b8_oFacebook's Internet.org charity has come under increased criticism of late but that hasn't stopped its expansion plans. On Friday Mark Zuckerberg proclaimed that Internet.org app was now available in Indonesia, a country with a population of 250 million.

Developed in partnership with local mobile phone carrier Indosat, the local version of the Internet.org app gives Indonesians free access to a limited number of websites and services, including Facebook (of course). The service is pitched as providing free access to the internet, but as you can see from the following list  that is far from true:

  • Accuweather
  • Ask.com
  • BabyCenter & Mama
  • Bola.net
  • Girl Effect
  • JobStreet
  • Kapanlagi
  • Kelase
  • Merdeka.com
  • OLX
  • Penuntun Hidup Sehat
  • Tokopedia
  • Wikipedia
  • Wattpad

Compared to the millions of sites available online, that's a damned short list. But on the plus side the list does include Wikipedia, Wattpad, and Ask.com, so users will actually be better informed than if they had no access at all.

One could argue that something is always better than nothing, but that argument doesn't carry nearly as much water now as it did when Internet.org was first announced in late 2013.

Over the past few weeks Internet.org has been the subject of a heated debate in India. Its critics have expressed concerns with how Internet.org violates the principles of net neutrality on a fundamental level. A couple local partners have even pulled out of the program in India, leading Zuckerberg to respond in an editorial published by the Hindustan Times.

We fully support net neutrality. We want to keep the internet open. Net neutrality ensures network operators don't discriminate by limiting access to services you want to use. It's an essential part of the open internet, and we are fully committed to it.

Net neutrality is not in conflict with working to get more people connected. These two principles - net neutrality and universal connectivity - can and must coexist.

To give more people access to the internet, it is useful to offer some services for free. If you can't afford to pay for connectivity, it is always better to have some access and voice than none at all.

Those are pretty words, but he doesn't actually explain why Internet.org has to go against net neutrality. Assuming that there is a valid reason and not something nefarious, it probably has to do with how the charity is funded.

I don't have details on  Internet.org but I do have info on a related service. Airtel, Internet.org's partner in India offers a similar free but limited internet service which is funded by the subsidy fees which app developers and web services pay in order to get their app or service in front of the user.

This is what is known as a "Zero Rating" service, although it has also been described as poor internet for poor people.

So tell me, do you think this type of service is better than nothing?

I think it can be, but I won't make that claim about Internet.org until I know more about its internal processes.  For example, its critics complain about the opaque process Facebook uses to choose local partners. To name one example, Wattpad is a partner in Kenya and Indonesia, but not in India. Why is that?

Until Facebook opens up and explains how Internet.org works, until we get to see how the sausage is made, the criticism will only increase.

And not just the criticism. The opposition will continue to grow until the point that it derails further expansion.

If Internet.org really is as altruistic as Zuckerberg claims, let's hope that the charity finds a way to make peace with its critics, possibly by reforming its methods, before it's too late.

Tech In Asia

 

 

About Nate Hoffelder (11590 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader:"I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

5 Comments on Facebook’s Internet.org Launches in Indonesia, Brings Wattpad And Controversy With it

  1. There is no debate (it’s not a debatable matter) and it’s no charity, they do it to push their product not to help, it’s a business. Oh and they clearly don’t provide access to the internet, just to a tiny fraction of it. Not only this is not net neutral but it should be an anti-trust violation at least when it comes to FB and Wiki- yeah Wikipedia is in the same boat and shame on them, people should stop donating, don’t let them cripple the development of other markets with our donations.
    This type of product is not better than nothing, They don’t replace nothing., they don’t create the infrastructure ,they just give up on some of their revenues to pay for a little data. This slows down developments in those markets and users get services they can afford at a much later date. It would be a lot more helpful if they were not doing anything. It’s kinda like phone subs in the US keeping prices high.
    If you dangle this kind of garbage in front of the carriers they focus on that instead of always providing more for less, investing and competing.
    Not sure if Zuckerberg really thinks we are all stupid and anyone believes his BS, but he should stop showing us what kind of person he is. it’s one thing to be evil but to go Fox News on us is worse.

    • Forgot to mention that if this is registered as a charity, that’s likely criminal fraud.
      They pay for traffic and that generates revenues so donations to it are not donations, are payments. The revenues and the income it generates don’t go to Internetorg but that doesn’t mean that those are not a direct result of it’s actions.

    • I agree with you, but I am also holding on to an irrational hope that we will be proven wrong. This would prove that people really are nicer than history has lead me to believe.

      • But this is not about people, it’s about corporations ( if corporations are people, they are psychopaths). They know what they are doing but they are doing it anyway and greed always wins. Even worse,many are listed on the stock market and that makes profits a lot more important.
        If FB had confidence in it’s product, they could pay for access to the entire internet , knowing that a lot of the traffic will go to FB. Just like Google shouldn’t have to cripple the Nexus devices and remove the microSD slot to force users to use it’s services. If they had services worth using,we would use them anyway. But they lack that confidence in their work and their product and the upbringing to behave like people. Even paying for internet access would likely be a net negative since it would have a negative impact on competition between carriers.
        In all fairness , there are a million ways to help without unethical or illegal behavior like this.

  2. Within a few years, Telecom operators should be able to provide high speed internet at very low cost. They know that once it happens, users will start using VOIP services exclusively and their revenues will go down. That is why they are planning these shenanigans.

    Here is how I understand concept of Airtel Zero or internet.org: Websites/Apps that are part of Airtel zero/internet.org will grow very big with time. After 1-2 years, these apps like whatsapp may start charging us monthly fee to access their services. For eCommerce sites like evil Flipkart, it will be a monopoly situation in market.
    Part of increased revenues will be shared with Telecom operators. This will only delay the launch or progress of real high speed internet in most countries.

    Even if infrastructure is there, high speed preference will be given to services like Airtel zero where the revenue for telecom operator is maximum.

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