Is Facebook Attempting To Rationalize Internet.org in India With $21 Million ‘Benefits’ From FbStart?

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“There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch” – Popular Corporate adage

In a blog post published yesterday, Facebook has shared that FbStart, their one year old program to help early stage mobile app developers has released more than $ 50 million as benefits to mobile startups based in Asia Pacific region.

As per Facebook, 70% of Facebook developers are based outside US, and out of $ 50 million benefits rolled out in Asia Pacific, $ 21 million (Rs 130 crore) has been provided to Indian mobile startups. As part of FbStart initiatives, they have conducted events in London, New York, Mexico City, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea last month, and it was announced that full-day events are happening this week at Bangalore and Gurgaon to create more awareness about their unique program.

Two Indian mobile startups were also mentioned in another blog post, which have taken the benefits of this program:

  • CardBack is a Delhi based mobile startup which helps users in managing their digital wallets, credit/debit cards
  • Samosa is a Hyderabad based mobile startup which provides curated clips from movies and enables sharing within their platform.

Facebook announced that 75% of all top grossing apps are integrated with Facebook right now.

As part of FbStart program, selected early stage mobile startups are provided with software and tools worth $ 80,000 under ‘Accelerate companies’ track and $ 30,000 under ‘Bootstrap companies’ track.

As per their blog post, around 1000 Indian mobile startups are already part of their FbStart program. Overall, benefits worth $ 100 million have been provided to 3800 participating startups globally.

So far so good. We appreciate and acknowledge their contribution to Indian startup ecosystem, and helping companies to expand and grow.

But linking their startup initiatives with Internet.org program is a big mistake, and it effectively negates any good work done.

Ime Archibong, Strategic Partnerships Director, Facebook, said, “I’m incredibly excited to be back in India this week. There’s an amazing opportunity for Indian-based developers to work with Facebook to grow their businesses, and we are doubling down on our investment in the country through programs like FbStart and the Internet.org Platform.”

Why Relating FbStart With Internet.org Is Evil

At a first glance, it seems that Facebook is trying to counter the intense negativity it received from their Internet.org program by dolling out ‘benefits’ to Indian startups.

Via Internet.org, Facebook is attempting to form a massive ‘closed’ platform which will give free access to few website/apps, and will act like a gatekeeper for the rest of the web.

Although the motive of Internet.org is fairly noble: To enable everyone basic Internet access, but the ideology of providing access to few selected websites goes against the principles of Net Neutrality.

The end-user will be trapped between the choices and options which Facebook provides to its users, hence, they are basically controlling what we can surf and click.

After the huge social media backlash, Times Group, NDTV, NewsHunt, Cleartrip have withdrawn from Internet.org project. TRAI has already declared that Internet.org is against Net Neutrality principles, with MTNL supporting this decision.

We had earlier presented 5 reasons which show that Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook is trying to control Internet with their Internet.org project, and why we should not let them do this.

All we can say right now is, Facebook should help early stage mobile startups without any agenda of relating it with Internet.org project. Connecting the whole startup revolution with Internet.org makes it appear like a desperate attempt to ‘buy’ support through indirect means.

Free lunches should not be used for propagating an ‘evil’ agenda, irrespective of the fact how expensive that lunch is.

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