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Free Basics in Internet -- a few points

NEW YORK: Social networking giant Facebook is rebranding its programme, which was in the midst of a controversy over alleged violation of net neutrality, to 'Free Basics'.

Armed with more services and stronger security measures, the rebranding will help Facebook distinguish the free basic internet offering from the large number of activities the US-based company is pursuing to help get new users online across the globe.

The announcement comes days before Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to visit Facebook's campus in California on September 27.

"We're making this change to better distinguish the initiative from the programmes and services that Facebook provides, 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. And the mobile web version, which will redirect from the previous URL, can be accessed at," vice-president Chris Daniels said.

He added that more than one billion people have access to's free basic services across Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Among the new services on the platform in India are English Dost, MeraDoctor, M-Kisan, My Rights and SkyMet.

With Free Basics, is also "making it safer" for people to connect to the websites and services by encrypting information wherever possible.

"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. This will ensure security of data for the end user. We are also ensuring our privacy policy is listed clearly so that people know how and where we are using their data," he said.

Launched last year, the programme has more than a dozen mobile operators on board across 17 countries offering basic internet services without data charges to over a billion people. The programme aims to provide people with access to free basic services through to help them discover the value of the internet.

" is working well. The programme has made an impact on people's lives by providing free health, education, and economic information. For example, SmartBusiness, a website that helps people learn to launch and run a business, now sees 5x more daily searches within their service since the launch in South Africa in July. This means that more people are getting access to important economic information," he said.

India has over 8 lakh users of the initiative that has been in the thick of the net neutrality debate. As part of the global initiative, Facebook had partnered with telecom major Reliance Communications to offer free access to over 30 websites without data charges to users in India.

Facebook faced criticism for launching the platform as it is seen violating the principle of net neutrality, which is against any priority being accorded to an entity in the internet traffic flow because of payments to service providers such as telecom companies.

Following a walkout by many of its publisher partners in India, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg had come out in defence of the programme, saying it did not block or throttle services and is not in conflict with net neutrality.

Daniels said the company has been in discussions with stakeholders to present its view on the issue.

"We have been in discussions with various stakeholders. We maintain that is a medium to take internet to the masses to help them understand the benefits of the worldwide web," he said.

Daniels further said: "There is no exclusivity with Reliance Communications in India. We are in discussions with more telecom operators in the country to join the platform. But the unfounded criticism has slowed the conversation. Hopefully, we will soon have more partners on board."

He reiterated that the company does not pay telecom operators for the data, but the service providers do see benefit as "people move on to paid services soon."

In May, Facebook had also announced an open programme for developers to create services that integrate with

Top Comment

Frankly speaking I don't have much hesitiation to welcome FB's rebranding exercise for it's own reasons But at the same ... Read MoreSubramani Pandranki

"Over the past few months, developers have adapted their services specifically for the platform requirements, and today, more than 80 free basic services are available in India," Facebook's director of product partnerships Ime Archibong said.

"We saw a huge amount of enthusiasm from developers in India who have helped expand the range of resources that can be made available to people, giving them more choice and control over the services they can use through the app and website," he added.

Here's what you can earn working at Facebook

Here's what you can earn working at Facebook
Engineering manager
Senior software engineer
Software engineer V
Product manager
Technical program manager
Database engineer
Data scientist
Research scientist
Software engineer IV
Front end engineer
Production engineer
Product designer
Network engineer
Product marketing manager
Software engineer
User interface engineer
Partner engineer
Application operations engineer
Software engineer III

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