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Facebook opens up Internet.org after protests

New websites and applications can be developed on Internet.org, a move Facebook said would boost efforts to get people online in low-income and rural areas in emerging markets.

However, critics continue to express concern over Facebook’s control over all data accessed on the service and said it violated the open principles of the web.

Internet.org offers free access via mobile phones to basic web services, including job listings, healthcare and education, as well as Facebook’s own social network and messaging services.

It is aimed at low-income users and those living in remote places, so far being launched in nine countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia, including India, and bringing over 8 million people online.

The platform is now open to all developers who meet certain guidelines, including that they produce content that can be browsed on both basic mobile phones as well as smartphones and is accessible in limited bandwidth situations, according to Facebook.

“In addition, websites must be properly integrated with Internet.org to allow zero rating and therefore can’t require JavaScript or SSL/TLS/HTTPS,” it said on the platform’s website.

The tech company partnered with Reliance Communications to launch Internet.org in India in February, but several e-commerce firms and content developers pulled out of the service after activists claimed it violated principles of net neutrality.

“Did we give unlimited free calls to people so that more people start making calls? So why this almost patronising approach to the Internet. You're effectively disadvantaging other companies and broader usage of the web,” Nikhil Pahwa, volunteer with pro-net neutrality campaign group savetheinternet.in, told Reuters.

But Chris Daniels, vice president of product for Internet.org, said: “Internet.org was open to mobile operators and involved no payments, either to or from the developers.

“The principles of neutrality must co-exist with programs that also encourage bringing people online,” he told Reuters.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a video post: “Access equals opportunity. Net neutrality should not prevent access. We need both, it's not an equal Internet if the majority of people can't participate.”

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