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Facebook Opens Internet.org to Developers

Facebook has opened up Internet.org to developers amidst net neutrality claims

Internet.org, for those who don’t know, is a service which allows those in developing countries access to the Internet absolutely free. It’s a service which was one limited to a small set of apps and websites which were low on bandwidth usage and were useful to those in developing countries. Unfortunately this came with claims from several Indian publishers which accused the Facebook-run service of net neutrality because it was working with carriers to determine which websites can and can’t be a part of the scheme, something they felt just wasn’t fair.

In response to that, Mark Zuckerberg posted a blog post to announce the Internet.org Platform, a platform that any developer can be a part of to bring their website or service to Internet.org. It sounds like a great idea, but there’s definitely some restrictions. It seems those wanting to be a part of the free-Internet scheme will have to follow a strict set of guidelines, similar to the App Store, in order to be considered a part of the scheme.

“Today, we’re taking the next step with Internet.org by enabling anyone to build free basic internet services to help connect the world,” Zuckerberg wrote in his post. “We’ll make faster progress towards connecting everyone if we all work together and give people even greater choice of services.”

Simply put, those wanting to build a service on Internet.org will have to make sure that not only is their site or service needing to be useful to those who use it, it’ll need to be relatively easy on bandwidth, and be optimised for browsing on both feature and smartphones. “In addition, websites must be properly integrated with Internet.org to allow zero rating and therefore can’t require JavaScript or SSL/TLS/HTTPS and must meet these technical guidelines,” Zuckerberg also added.

For some though, the lack of HTTPS means that services such as Twitter can’t be a part of the service thanks to the way Internet.org communicates with external servers. In a statement to The Verge however, a representative did say that a HTTPS-enabled Android app is in the works, which will bring that encryption to Internet.org, though they didn’t offer a time scale as to when it’ll be available.

“Starting with the Android app, we are working to support the type of encrypted services that we know people want with the right protections in place,” a company representative said. “We’re also investigating ways that we could provide the same security for web-based access to Internet.org, but currently we don’t have a solution that avoids ‘man-in-the-middle’ techniques.”

Two thirds of the world aren’t connected to the Internet and with Internet.org as well as other initiatives from Facebook and Google, that’s soon to change, but is it for better or for worse? We’d love to know your thoughts.

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