Title

× Close
Digital divide

Facebook opens up Internet.org to developers, responding to net neutrality advocates

Chris Daniels, Facebook's VP for Internet.org, says Facebook isn't picking the web winners through the initiative.

Facebook announced on Monday that its Internet.org app, which offers some websites for free, without data charges, is being opened up to developers. “Our goal with Internet.org is to work with as many developers and entrepreneurs as possible to extend the benefits of connectivity to diverse, local communities,"  Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a blog post. "To do this, we’re going to offer services through Internet.org in a way that’s more transparent and inclusive.”

The lack of transparency and inclusiveness was among the criticisms that net neutrality activists have made about Internet.org, which is available in India through Reliance Communications on Android phones. In an interview at Facebook’s New Delhi office, Chris Daniels, Facebook’s vice president of product for Internet.org, explained why he believes Monday's announcement is significant.

What are the changes you are announcing today to Internet.org?
This is an important step we are taking, opening up Internet.org. This does two things. One, it invites developers to join, which we heard they want to. Two, it gives consumers more choice, which we heard they want as well.

How does it work?
If you are a developer and you have a service, you can join Internet.org if you comply with the principles we will soon publish. The process of joining the platform consists of three principles. The first is, it should encourage people to explore the broader internet. You may have links to other sites from your site, so the people are encouraged to explore beyond the basic services. Second is that you must develop a simpler version of your service to be a free basic service.

The second principle is around efficiency. This model has to work for the operators and for the business model. We need things that are data efficient on the network. Services like video or high-resolution photos aren't going to be a god fit in a free, basic service.

The third principle is a set of technical guidelines. These are technical requirements in order to zero-rate the traffic. These include guidelines such as https protocol can't be included, neither can javascript.

Currently there are around 30-odd sites on Internet.org in India. Opening it up and inviting developers could mean there could be a lot more sites on the platform. Are the operators going to be happy about this?
It has to work for operators in the long-term. What we believe though is that giving consumers more choice will make them experience some of these basic services that are valuable to them and then they can go on to explore the broader internet. When they do that, they will pay for the data, and that does work for the operator.

Is this move to open up Internet.org to developers in response to the net neutrality debate in India, as part of which Internet.org has been widely criticised as violating net neutrality principles?
We always wanted to provide more basic services as part of Internet.org. It was part of our long-term roadmap. The debate here certainly accelerated our plans. The debate also gave us an opportunity to go to all the constituents of the debate and hear how they see Internet.org, the benefits they see from it and the concerns people have about it.

The most interesting feedback we saw was from consumers, who were positive about programmes that bring people online. When we listened to the people spearheading the net neutrality debate, the primary things we heard were around consumer choice and making sure that any developer can join. Today we have addressed those.

Some content partners have exited Internet.org in India to support net neutrality. These include travel website Cleartrip and news conglomerates NDTV and The Times of India. Are you concerned about the future of Internet.org in India?
If you look globally, Internet.org is in nine countries right now. There hasn't been anywhere else that people have exited. I am very optimistic about Internet.org globally and in India, because we are providing a fantastic service for people to come online. It's working for consumers and mobile operators and now it will also work for the developer community.

There will still be people who will say that Internet.org is a violation of the net neutrality principle, as it creates a free and a paid lane, and one such discrimination in data is allowed, operators might use it to argue for fast lanes and slow lanes, and so on.
I don’t believe that Internet.org is a violation of net neutrality. I believe that that programmes that bring more people online must co-exist with net neutrality. We agree with the principles of net neutrality – that there shouldn’t be fast lanes, throttling, etcetera.

Programmes that are specifically designed to bring more people online are good for the entire ecosystem and the entire world.

It is important to differentiate between different kinds of zero-rating services. With Internet.org, the key feature is that there is no money paid by Facebook or other content providers to the operator. The only way Internet.org works for operators is that more people come online. That’s the only business model that works. It aligns incentives. The only thing Facebook does pay for is marketing Internet.org so that people who are not online come to know about it.

What would you say to those that Internet.org isn’t about bringing more people online but only increasing the monthly active users of Facebook.
That notion is absolutely false. Internet.org has roughly 30 content partners in India. Facebook and Facebook Messenger are only two of them, listed just like the other sites. We really people that people should come online and experience the entire wealth of the internet. That would be good for the entire ecosystem, and thus also Facebook. But that’s not our primary goal here. Our primary goal is that those who are not online should also experience the benefits of the internet.

Isn’t it strange that Internet.org wants to offer free basic services but has no email?
If an email provider wants to comply with the platform guidelines that we are announcing, Internet.org would be glad to have it.

What has been the consumer reception like for Internet.org in India? How many people are using it and how many people has it helped discover the internet?

We have seen it bring more people to the internet. We have seen data that shows it is bringing more people online. Unfortunately, I can't share any specific statistics. Those are between the operator and us.

What do the global numbers look like?
Our efforts have brought 8 million people to the internet, whom we believe would not be on the internet otherwise. Internet.org today is available today in countries or regions that cover roughly 800 million people. We are saying the adoption of internet.org continues to grow. We are in nine countries and will add more to the list. We are in this for the long haul.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BULLETIN BY 

Making transportation more sustainable even with fuel-based automobiles

These innovations can reduce the pollution caused by vehicles.

According to the WHO’s Ambient Air Pollution Database released in 2016, ten of the twenty most polluted cities in the world are in India, with Gwalior and Ahmedabad occupying the second and third positions. Pollution levels are usually expressed in the levels of particulate matter (PM) in the air. This refers to microscopic matter that is a mixture of smoke, metals, chemicals and dust suspended in the atmosphere that can affect human health. Particulate matter is easily inhaled, and can cause allergies and diseases such as asthma, lung cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Indian cities have some of the highest levels of PM10 (particles smaller than 10 micrometres in diameter) and PM2.5 particles (particles smaller than 2.5 micrometres in diameter). The finer the particulate matter, the deeper into your lungs it can penetrate causing more adverse effects. According to WHO, the safe limits for PM2.5 is 10 micrograms per cubic meter.

Emissions resulting from transportation is regarded as one of the major contributors to pollution levels, especially particulate matter. A study conducted by the Centre for Ecological Sciences of the Indian Institute of Science estimated that the transport sector constitutes 32% of Delhi’s emissions. It makes up 43% of Chennai’s emissions, and around 17% of Mumbai’s emissions.

Controlling emissions is a major task for cities and auto companies. The Indian government, to this end, has set emission standards for automobiles called the Bharat Stage emission standard, which mirrors European standards. This emission standard was first instituted in 1991 and has been regularly updated to follow European developments with a time lag of about 5 years. Bharat Stage IV emission norms have been the standard in 2010 in 13 major cities. To tackle air pollution that has intensified since then, the Indian government announced that Bharat Stage V norms would be skipped completely, and Stage VI norms would be adopted directly in 2020.

But sustainability in transport requires not only finding techniques to reduce the emissions from public and private transport but also developing components that are environment friendly. Car and auto component manufacturers have begun optimising products to be gentler on the environment and require lesser resources to manufacture, operate and maintain.

There are two important aspects of reducing emissions. The first is designing vehicles to consume less fuel. The second is making the emissions cleaner by reducing the toxic elements.

In auto exteriors, the focus is on developing light-weight but strong composite materials to replace metal. A McKinsey study estimates that plastic and carbon fibre can reduce weight by about 20% and 50% respectively. A lighter body reduces the engine effort and results in better fuel economy. Additionally, fuel efficiency can be increased by reducing the need for air conditioning which puts additional load on the vehicle engine thereby increasing fuel consumption. Automotive coatings (paints) and sheets provide better insulation, keep the vehicle cool and reduce the use of air conditioning.

Most emissions are the result of inefficient engines. Perhaps the most significant innovations in making automobiles and mass transport systems more eco-friendly are being done in the engine. Innovations include products like fuel additives, which improve engine performance, resist corrosion and reduce fuel consumption while offering a great driving experience, and catalytic converters that reduce toxic emissions by converting them to less harmful output such as carbon dioxide, Nitrogen and water. Some of these catalytic converters are now capable of eliminating over 90 percent of hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides.

All of these are significant measures to bring the negative impacts of vehicular pollution under control. With over 2 million vehicles being produced in India in 2015 alone and the moving to BS VI emission standards, constant innovation is imperative.

Beyond this, in commercial as well as passenger vehicles, companies are innovating with components and processes to enable higher resource efficiency. Long-lasting paint coatings, made of eco-friendly materials that need to be refreshed less often are being developed. Companies are also innovating with an integrated coating process that enables carmakers to cut out an entire step of coating without compromising the colour result or the properties of the coating, saving time, materials and energy. Efforts are being made to make the interiors more sustainable. Parts like the instrument panel, dashboard, door side panels, seats, and locks can all be created with material like polyurethane plastic that is not only comfortable, durable and safe but also easily recyclable. Manufacturers are increasingly adopting polyurethane plastic like BASF’s Elastollan® for these very reasons.

From pioneering the development of catalytic converters in 1975 to innovating with integrated process technology for coatings, BASF has always been at the forefront of innovation when it comes to making transport solutions more sustainable. The company has already developed the technology to handle the move of emissions standards from BS IV to BS VI.

For the future, given the expected rise in the adoption of electric cars—an estimated 5~8 percent of car production is expected to be pure electric or plug-in electric vehicles by 2020—BASF is also developing materials that enable electric car batteries to last longer and achieve higher energy density, making electronic mobility more feasible. To learn more about how BASF is making transport more sustainable, see here.

Watch the video to see how automotive designers experimented with cutting edge materials from BASF to create an innovative concept car.

Play

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of BASF and not by the Scroll editorial team.

× Close