Internet.org was launched in the summer of 2013. Facebook's founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg released a short whitepaper he had written about what he wanted to accomplish.
He wrote that he saw Internet.org as another step in the direction that Facebook had started going with earlier initiatives (such as Facebook Zero) to improve global Internet access.
Internet.org is a partnership between Facebook and six companies (Samsung, Ericsson, MediaTek, Opera Software, Nokia and Qualcomm) to bring affordable access to selected Internet services to less developed countries.
Some writers have compared Internet.org with Google's X Project Loon which also has a mission of providing Internet access to remote areas. More than half of the world's population is still without Internet access. Project Loon is a network of balloons traveling on the edge of space, designed to extend Internet connectivity to people in rural and remote areas worldwide.
Both sound like good things, but they have been met with criticism. There is a Zen-like proverb: "No good deed goes unpunished." Some say that these "good deed" projects would be violating net neutrality by selecting certain Internet services to be included. Might Facebook or Google exclude their competitors? In fact, in February 2016, regulators banned Facebook's Free Basics app service in India based on "Prohibition of Discriminatory Tariffs for Data Services Regulations" and Facebook removed it.
Even Wikipedia has gotten into this space with its Wikipedia Zero. That project. by the Wikimedia Foundation, aims to provide access to Wikipedia free of charge on mobile phones, particularly in developing markets.
These kinds of projects rely on what is known as "zero-rating" which is toll-free data or sponsored data. For this to work, mobile network operators, mobile virtual network operators and Internet service providers have to NOT charge end customers for data used by specific applications or Internet services through their network.
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