Lately you may have seen your Facebook trending feed constantly showing updates on internet.org. So, as it’s our job to make sure you are informed, we’re about to tell you internet.org is, regardless of whether you asked or not. Internet.org is a Facebook-led (now you know why it’s always trending on Facebook) venture put together by a number of major tech. companies including Ericsson, Nokia, Qualcomm, Samsung and Reliance Communications for the Indian market. The aim of this project is to bring Internet to 2/3rd of the world that do not currently have access to it. You may have also seen some heated debates on the importance of such a venture. You might wonder, how is providing free internet a bad thing? It absolutely isn’t, but there are two sides to the coin, that’s for sure.
The companies have been working to develop low cost technologies, and investing in tools and software to improve data compression capabilities to make data transmission more efficient, as bandwidth in such areas is rather limited.
How it works
Reliance users need to log onto internet.org from their phones using Opera Mini or UC Browser. Reliance users can also call 1800-300-25353 (toll-free), and through a voice menu select the service they wish to use on their phone, to which a URL will be sent via SMS. If you are an Android user, you can access the ‘whitelisted’ websites via the Internet.org app for free browsing. If the user attempts to access a site that isn’t a partner of Internet.org, they will be shown a warning message informing them that data charges will apply if they proceed. While you are using Internet.org, you can be sure that it is free by checking for the small message at the top of the screen reading ‘Free Data.’ Also, note, it is only available for Reliance customers and in the following areas: Mumbai, Maharashtra, Chennai, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, or Kerala.
A quick demo has shown us that the interface seems to have been pulled from an ancient era where smartphones didn’t even exist and responsive design was but a dream. Internet.org sports a flat, highly un-flattering design with limited colors and graphics. This didn’t exactly seem like the best way to get new users to get online, nonetheless, it proved to be functional. Opening a site was another quest of its own, as they load slowly at 2G speeds. It was also enough to let users know what to expect at the lovely price of ‘zero.’
It is safe to say, that for a consumer already accustomed to the luxury that is internet, the design aspect here was a stark disappointment. Maybe this is to ensure that paying customers won’t cheap out and start using the free versions. However, design can be overlooked. What is definitely questionable though, is some of sites they have listed. Although most of the ones available make a lot of sense, such as news, health, and social welfare, there are a few odd ones such as Cleartrip. How many people, who can’t afford internet, will be able to afford air tickets from Cleartrip? They have also decided that email wasn’t important enough to add, but instead provided limited versions of Facebook Messenger and Facebook.
Though a seemingly noble effort, the idea behind this might not have been a ‘non-profit’ one for the companies involved. As the connected world is already too saturated with new devices and endless options, companies like Facebook need to find a new market. What better way of doing this than tapping a world that has been devoid of internet entirely? Bill Gates had criticized other technology companies for hiding behind the veil of ‘charity’ while really filling up the company’s pockets with untapped dollars.
Yet, despite the tidy profits Facebook and Reliance stand to make from the undeveloped areas, you cannot ignore the social benefits the world will see by getting the remaining 2/3rd online. After all, some internet is always better than no internet. Not only will the user be connected to the world, they will also be able to educate themselves online. We all know how powerful the internet is when it comes to changing old-fashioned perspectives and removing stigmas. Maybe this could turn out to be a major stepping stone to a modern India.