Nerval's Lobster writes: In conjunction with a variety of partners (including Nokia, Opera, Qualcomm and Samsung), Facebook is launching Internet.org, which will try to make Internet access more affordable to more people. The partnership will also work on ways to lower the amount of data necessary to power most apps and Internet experiences, which could help people in areas with poor connectivity access online services, and devise incentives for businesses and manufacturers to offer customers more affordable access. Why would Facebook and its partners want to connect another 5 billion people to the Internet? Sure, there are altruistic reasons—people online can access information that will improve or even save their lives. But for Facebook, more people online equals more ad revenue, which equals more profit. Social networking in the developed world is reaching a saturation point, with a significant percentage of the population already on one (or more) social networks; only by expanding into developing nations can Facebook and its ilk maintain the growth rates that Wall Street demands. In a similar vein, building devices and services accessible via weaker Internet connections would open up a whole new customer base for the app developers and manufacturers of the world. In theory, Internet.org plans on enlisting a variety of nonprofits and “experts” to help in its effort; but the initial announcement only lists for-profit companies among its constituency. NGOs, academics and the aforementioned experts will apparently arrive “over time.” So is this effort really charitable, or a cynical attempt to break into new markets?
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