Facebook renames Internet.org, launches new services

Facebook is eyeing video growth. (Ducnan Alfreds, Fin24)
Facebook is eyeing video growth. (Ducnan Alfreds, Fin24)

Cape Town – Facebook on Thursday changed the name and updated services on its Internet.org platform.

The social network launched Free Basics with new services designed to expand digital services in developing countries.

“Over the past few months, developers have adapted their services specifically for the Internet.org Platform requirements, and today, more than 60 new services are available across the 19 countries where free basic services are available,” Facebook said in a statement.

In particular, Facebook highlighted the SmartBusiness application in SA which saw a five-fold increase in searches since launch in July.

The social network with around 1.49 billion users insisted that it had built security for the free platform.

“Several months ago we announced support for services using HTTPS in the Free Basics Android app, and today, we're adding support for HTTPS services on the web version as well. And even if the service you access only runs over HTTP, we encrypt that information between our servers and any device that supports HTTPS.”

However, Facebook has come under fire for its Internet.org platform from commentators in India who argue that the service violates the principle of net neutrality or treating all internet traffic equally.

That criticism has stung the social media giant which took pains to make a clear distinction with Free Basics.

“We're making this change to better distinguish the Internet.org initiative from the programs and services we're providing, including Free Basics. Anyone currently using the app will be able to continue using the Android app, though it will now be called Free Basics by Facebook in Google Play,” Facebook said.

In SA, Free Basics is only available to Cell C subscribers though the company indicated that it will expand the roll-out.

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