Facebook presses ahead with controversial Free Basics service for Internet.org , allowing developers to test their services and find out more about users
Internet.org, the Facebook-led venture to bring connectivity to people in the developing world, is offering two tools to help developers adapt their wares for ‘Free Basics’ – a collection of curated free content and services.
A new simulator will let developers see how their website performs on devices with limited power and on connections with constrained bandwidth, mimicking the experience many users will have.
“We hope the Free Basics Simulator will serve as a useful resource for developers looking to keep hardware and network constraints in mind as they build for the next billion people coming online,” said Internet.org.
Internet.org Free Basics
Internet.org is also offering demographic insights tools, allowing developers to see who is accessing their content and where. This anonymised aggregated data can see the age, gender and country of visitors, information which can help tailor content for particular groups.
The initiative says it is “dedicated” to providing tools for developers and has already partnered with Ericsson on an innovation lab and an ‘augmented traffic control’ tool that simulates network conditions.
Free Basics was spun off from the wider Internet.org initiative last year in order to separate it from the organisation’s connectivity efforts, which include satellite internet.
Facebook has presented Internet.org as a charitable venture, but it has been controversial. Digital rights groups have argued that the ‘zero rating’ of specific services by mobile operators (not charging customers for data consumption) hands companies like Facebook an advantage over others not involved with Internet.org.
However Facebook has argued that Internet.org is helping “connect the unconnected” and that many users of the Free Basics service had signed up for full mobile tariffs. It claims half of users sign up for data services within 30 days in a bid to encourage operators to sign up.
Free Basics is available in 37 countries in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America – but not in India and Egypt where it is banned.
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