A group of companies led by Facebook launched Internet.org on Wednesday. Mark Zuckerberg’s latest scheme aims to provide internet access “to the next 5 billion people.” The project is a partnership between Facebook and six other founding companies, including Samsung and Nokia.
The plans were unveiled in a post to Facebook’s newsroom, following the release of Zuckerberg’s whitepaper “Is connectivity a human right?” and the success of the Open Compute Project. As with the Open Compute Project, internet.org is based on corporate cooperation. Partnering with Samsung, Qualcomm, Opera, Nokia, Ericsson, and MediaTek, Internet.org “will develop joint projects, share knowledge, and mobilize industry and governments to bring the world online.”
An estimated two-thirds of the world’s population does not have adequate internet access, and Internet.org seeks to change that in three ways: by making access affordable, using data more efficiently, and helping business drive access.
“There are huge barriers in developing countries to connecting and joining the knowledge economy,” Zuckerberg said. “Internet.org brings together a global partnership that will work to overcome these challenges, including making internet access available to those who cannot currently afford it.”
The post specifically mentions “lower-cost, higher-quality smartphones,” data compression tools, aligning incentives for business, and localizing services among the ways it plans to meet its goals.
“By reducing the cost and amount of data required for most apps and enabling new business models, Internet.org is focused on enabling the next 5 billion people to come online,” according to the announcement.
Earlier this year Google began launching balloons to expand internet availability, an effort it calls Project Loon.
Bringing 5 billion people online would inevitably create demand for existing services like web hosting in new places and on a greater scale. While those who currently cannot afford Internet access represent a different kind of market with different opportunities, Zuckerberg’s focus on the knowledge economy suggests that at least he thinks the business world is evolving. Companies that agree will be watching Internet.org and related projects closely.
Internet.org currently provides information on the project’s mission, goals, and partners, and will soon feature interviews with tech leaders and project news updates.