Facebook is opening Internet.org to developers

Developers, start your engines.
Developers, start your engines.
Image: AP/Press Trust of India
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Facebook is opening the gates of its non-profit Internet.org to developers, allowing anyone to develop services for the platform, it announced May 4.

Internet.org, which was founded in 2013 with the stated goal of bringing internet access to the developing world for free, previously had provided its users with a set of free basic services, including Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Wikipedia, and some local services such as job-posting sites and sports reports. No other services were available. (Internet.org partners with telecom companies so that users can access Internet.org services without paying data-transfer fees.)

Now, anyone can develop services for the new Internet.org platform, provided they adhere to its requirements, which are mainly focused on assuring that services will use very little bandwidth and be optimized for smartphones. In other words, Netflix won’t be arriving on the platform anytime soon.

The move might placate some of the nonprofit’s critics, who have accused Facebook of being more interested in attracting and potentially boxing in new users than in actual philanthropy. Indeed, Quartz reported earlier this year that a number of Facebook users in the developing world had no idea they were even using the internet. Quartz has reached out to Facebook for comment and will update this post with any response.

By allowing anyone to publish services, Facebook at least is letting in all players, even if Facebook still controls the game.