Remember Free Basics? Facebook‘s ambitious program to bring people to the internet for the first time. It has a new baby named Discover — an app that lets you visit any website with data limits.
Facebook is currently testing this app in Peru, one of the 55 countries where Free Basics exists. The social network has partnered with local telecom companies such as Bitel, Claro, Entel, and Movistar.
These carriers will provide a free daily data cap to Discover users that they can use to visit any website. The data limit varies per carrier; some of them are offering 10MB per day in Peru — which is not much event to visit compressed mobile sites. The catch is that video, audio, and “certain other types of data-intensive” traffic are not supported against the free data limit.
Yoav Zeevi, the product manager for Discover, said the app will help people connect to the internet when they exhaust their data balance:
With Discover, we’re exploring ways to help people stay on the internet more consistently. Many internet users around the world remain underconnected, regularly dropping off the internet for some period of time when they exhaust their data balance. Discover is designed to help bridge these gaps and keep people connected until they can purchase data again. We’ll also be assessing how Discover can help people extend use of their regular data balance and support internet adoption.
This is a departure from the early Free Basics concepts where Facebook allowed you to use certain sites for free. It also drew a lot of criticism from privacy advocates as the program broke core principles of net neutrality to treat every website equally. As a result, India banned Free Basics in 2016 for breaking rules of net neutrality.
The social network giant’s new effort seems to be repairing that mistake at some level by treating all websites equally. The company says it won’t use your browsing data in Discover for targeted ads or store your browsing history. Plus, you don’t need a Facebook account to start using this service.
Facebook is testing a new product called ‘Discover’ to improve on its existing Free Basics program.
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— The Web Foundation (@webfoundation) May 5, 2020
The World Wide Web Foundation, which has received funding from Facebook, lauded the companies efforts.
Facebook says it aims to expand the Discover program in Thailand, the Philippines, and Iraq in the coming weeks. We’ll have to wait and see if this program passes the privacy and net neutrality litmus test for Facebook to finally expand its Free Basics program.