Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Compare cell phone plans using Wirefly's innovative plan comparison tool ×
Facebook The Internet

Seeing Beyond The Hubris Of Facebook's Free Basics Fiasco (techcrunch.com) 99

Facebook's Free Basics was an ill-conceived effort to bring Internet access to the poor in India. It created a walled garden in which Facebook and the Indian telecom providers selected which websites people could visit. The users of Free Basics would find that Facebook was the center of their virtual universe and would experience only what it allowed them to.

The Free Basics project originated from an idea that Zuckerberg had about connecting the next 5 billion people. He documented this in a paper titled Is Connectivity A Human Right? He wrote that in the U.S. "an iPhone with a typical two-year data plan costs about $2,000, where about $500-600 of that is the phone and $1,500 is the data." What Zuckerberg and his U.S. team didn't understand was that in India you can buy computer tablets and smartphones for as little as $50, and that 100MB of data -- which is more than a Free Basics user will consume in a month -- costs much less than a dollar. So the entire basis of the paper was flawed.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Seeing Beyond The Hubris Of Facebook's Free Basics Fiasco

Comments Filter:
  • Well duh! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 )
    Facebook sucks very much. It is very difficult to make anything that doesn't suck from something that sucks.

    Combined with their hubris, impossible.

  • How is a captive portal site different from AOL?

    How, in any way, is a captive portal service in India, any different than America On Line or Compuserve was as captive portals in the U.S.?

    They allowed the "Me Too!"'s onto the Internet in the first place, which later expanded to general access.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      It's different, because Zuck wrote a paper about it which he invented all on his own. He probably wasn't born when Compuserve was created so obviously it couldn't possibly be anything like it.

    • by choprboy ( 155926 ) on Saturday February 13, 2016 @07:39PM (#51502859) Homepage

      How is a captive portal site different from AOL?

      Because AOL was never a captive portal site. AOL was a portal site and used/sold "Keywords" on the portal page as a type of search engine to direct users to prefered endpoints. But there is/was nothing that prevented users from using Yahoo, AltaVista, Jeeves, or any other search engine, or typing destinations URLs in directly.

      Facebook's India initiative is a captive portal. Useers can only use select Facebook services, or services approved/advertised by Facebook. Users can not go to any service/website or transmit any data to anything not approved by Facebook. Facebook's system is more analagous to the dial-up vendor/insular BBSes of the 80's which could only be accessed from terminals locked to particullar dial-up numbers and only allowed information within the same network. Yet Facebook claims to call their servicce "the internet".

      • How is a captive portal site different from AOL?

        Because AOL was never a captive portal site. AOL was a portal site and used/sold "Keywords" on the portal page as a type of search engine to direct users to prefered endpoints. But there is/was nothing that prevented users from using Yahoo, AltaVista, Jeeves, or any other search engine, or typing destinations URLs in directly.

        Nothing?

        How about:

        (1) AOL was founded in 1983

        (2) AOL didn't offer Internet access until 1993, a couple of months after it started to offer Usenet access It spent a decade as a captive portal.

        AOL was just like Prodigy, CompuServe, GEnie, and other services of it's day: You connected to a service through the public telephone network, and it was a subset of the information available, compared to what you'd get from an ISP, and advertisers had to pay for keywords.

        Given that for about $1/month, an Indian perso

        • by whoever57 ( 658626 ) on Saturday February 13, 2016 @11:08PM (#51503991) Journal

          The only thing I'm seeing is not-quite-poor people in India posting online in a way that the actually-poor in India can not possibly post online, as to why all the actually-poor people in India shouldn't have *some* access to the Internet.

          Because apparently none-is-preferrable-to-some-which-is-not-all.

          Because Facebook's intent was to distort the market in ways that may take away that $1/month option and force many more people to rely on only those sites that Facebook approves.

          Be realistic: do you really think that Zuckerberg really does anything from a purely altruistic motivation?

          • Because apparently none-is-preferrable-to-some-which-is-not-all.

            Because Facebook's intent was to distort the market in ways that may take away that $1/month option and force many more people to rely on only those sites that Facebook approves.

            Be realistic: do you really think that Zuckerberg really does anything from a purely altruistic motivation?

            They wanted to keep that option, of the people paying extra. In no documentation, literature, or description of the plan is there ever any intent to take away the option to start paying for the otherwise free OTA service in order to get access to the full Internet.

            And no, I don't think that Zuckerberg suffers from an overabundance of altruistic motivation...

            Why does India believe that he should, and pay for full Internet access for everyone? We don't even have universal Internet access in the U.S..

            • > In no documentation, literature, or description of the plan is there ever any intent to take away the option to start paying for the otherwise free OTA service in order to get access to the full Internet.

              That access would be funneled, fairly forcibly, through the Facebook portal. That would help Facebook "monetize" that traffic for destinations other than the Facebook portal itself.

              • That access would be funneled, fairly forcibly, through the Facebook portal. That would help Facebook "monetize" that traffic for destinations other than the Facebook portal itself.

                Yes. And if people paid for the data service themselves, while still using the Facebook supplied device, they would be able to avoid the "funneling".

                So your fear comes down to people not finding such funneling to be onerous enough that they would pay, and that in that case, the funneling would damage your economic interests.

                Obviously: you are free to either partner with Facebook, and avoid this for just your economic interests, or pay the $1/month for the unrestricted access for the people who are being fu

                • > So your fear comes down to people not finding such funneling to be onerous enough that they would pay, and that in that case, the funneling would damage your economic interests.

                  Please do not transform my pointing out the limitations built into the system as "my fear" about its purposes. As a concept the walled gardens for poor communities are interesting. But to claim that it wouldn't limit, or control, access to the rest of the Internet would be misleading. Even if it's not apparent in the initial de

          • Not a single thing in business is ever altruistic, nor should it be. Itbis just business and offering a very specific type of service must not be criminalized. If the issue is the name 'Internet' should not be applied for what Zuckerberg is selling, that I can agree with, but to prevent a company or a person from providing a very specific type of service because you disagree with the features of the service... I do not believe that any government has any real authority to prevent people from using drugs.

            • "Not a single thing in business is ever altruistic"

              So everything in business is [word] ?

              • For profit, that is the word. Profit is what business is about, not altruism nor should it be anything but profit. In a free market capitalist economy profit motive is the most economically sound and moral motive that can exist. Not that we have free market or drugs, prostitution and this business would not be prohibited by the government.

                • Ok, so in business altruism is ok and and at times it is the primary motive. But you mean that in capitalism the profit motive is primary.

            • > Not a single thing in business is ever altruistic, nor should it be

              That approach to business thinking is surprisingly common place. But there are many non-profit businesses that clearly disagree with this ethical model, and businesses that deal with them have to take the political and social beliefs of their clients into account. Especially at the smaller business level, many employers act out of a shared desire for their employees and their businesses to succeed, and that element of camarederie has re

          • by bigpat ( 158134 )

            Because Facebook's intent was to distort the market in ways that may take away that $1/month option and force many more people to rely on only those sites that Facebook approves.

            I think from a competitive free market versus regulation perspective the question is whether or not there was some resource constraint on bandwidth that meant that the government had a good reason to want to make sure that only Internet Service could be provided over the network rather than a closed network. If we are talking about EM spectrum, then it has been long established that the government has an interest in specifying to some degree of detail the types of services that license holders may provide.

        • by choprboy ( 155926 ) on Saturday February 13, 2016 @11:31PM (#51504081) Homepage

          How about:
          (1) AOL was founded in 1983
          AOL didn't offer Internet access until 1993, a couple of months after it started to offer Usenet access It spent a decade as a captive portal.
          AOL was just like Prodigy, CompuServe, GEnie, and other services of it's day: You connected to a service through the public telephone network, and it was a subset of the information available, compared to what you'd get from an ISP, and advertisers had to pay for keywords.,

          That is a bit of a revisionist history summary there... AOL was not an internet service provider or even "AOL" in 1983, it was platform attempting to sell a select set of products. And it did not call itself "the internet", for all intents and purposes "the internet" didn;t really exist before the very late 80's/early 90's outside of a very small community.

          To quote Wikipedia:
          AOL began in 1983, as a short-lived venture called Control Video Corporation (or CVC)... Its sole product was an online service called GameLine for the Atari 2600 video game console, after von Meister's idea of buying music on demand was rejected by Warner Bros... In May 1983... [CVC] was near bankruptcy.
          On May 24, 1985, Quantum Computer Services... was founded by Jim Kimsey from the remnants of Control Video.... The service was unique from other online services as it used the computing power of the Commodore 64 and the Apple II rather than just a "dumb" terminal....From the beginning, AOL included online games in its mix of products; many classic and casual games were included in the original PlayNet software system. In the early years of AOL the company introduced many innovative online interactive titles and games ...in October 1989, Quantum changed the service's name to America Online.

          So again.. AOL in the early years was never an ISP, it was a service (gaming, not network) provider. AOL wasn't even AOL until 1989. Yes it was then a vendor platform, but it did not call itself the internet or claim to link the world, only to sell a select set of games. I remember first learning about "Hyper Text Linking" in about 1991 on Mac computers... it was this new thing to link documents on your local network. Almost no one then really had an understanding of the internet. If you wanted to communicate with someone across the country or the other side of the world, you dialed into your BBS and downloaded Usenet/mail.

          In September 1993, AOL added USENET access to its features....AOL quickly surpassed GEnie, and by the mid-1990s, it passed Prodigy and CompuServe. By 1993, AOL was able to provide public Internet access for its Windows client users.

          So AOL started providing "the internet" in 1993. I did not even have an ISP or "the internet" until around 1995. The early 1990s were when BBSes started to disappear/transform into actual internet service providers. The internet, a global set of services as we know it, simply didn't exist before that time. Again, Facebook is claiming to provide "the internet" with its India initiative, when it is really providing "select Facebook".

          • Especially when you consider that the original Netscape Navigator wasn't released until the end of 1994. Christ even Mosaic didn't exist until early '93. And while I had lynx before that that wasn't at all accessible to joe public

          • That is a bit of a revisionist history summary there... AOL was not an internet service provider or even "AOL" in 1983, it was platform attempting to sell a select set of products. And it did not call itself "the internet", for all intents and purposes "the internet" didn;t really exist before the very late 80's/early 90's outside of a very small community.

            Why do you think Facebook calls it "Free Basics" insteac of calling it "The Internet" or "Your Facebook ISP"?

            To quote Facebook:

            "Free Basics makes the internet accessible to more people by providing them access to a range of free basic services like news, maternal health, travel, local jobs ..."

            You want more than basic services? You pay for them.

        • I'm kind of astonished you're comparing Facebook now to AOL then without considering any of the historical context.

          (1) AOL was founded in 1983

          That was the same year the modern internet came into being (TCP/IP supplanted NCP in 1983). It connected a handful of institutions. Offering internet access wouldn't have actually achieved and besides there was no provision in place for commercial or public use. No one would have given AOL access anyway.

          There was not much by the way of internetworking in 1983, and fra

        • by DarkOx ( 621550 )

          (2) AOL didn't offer Internet access until 1993, a couple of months after it started to offer Usenet access It spent a decade as a captive portal.

          AOL was just like Prodigy, CompuServe, GEnie, and other services of it's day: You connected to a service through the public telephone network, and it was a subset of the information available, compared to what you'd get from an ISP, and advertisers had to pay for keywords.

          I don't think you can blame AOL for the fact the internet was not opened up for commercial use until 1992. The fact that AOL provided a way for John Q. Public to get access to the Internet only months after it was really even an option is pretty impressive actually. Before 1992 if you were on the Internet you either were at a research University, or working for a defense contractor.

          You act as if AOL was a walled garden, they started that way but that was because that was all there was and all anyone knew u

      • by bigpat ( 158134 )

        How is a captive portal site different from AOL?

        Because AOL was never a captive portal site. AOL was a portal site and used/sold "Keywords" on the portal page as a type of search engine to direct users to prefered endpoints. But there is/was nothing that prevented users from using Yahoo, AltaVista, Jeeves, or any other search engine, or typing destinations URLs in directly.

        That eventually became the case, but originally AOL didn't provide any Internet service and was a completely closed network. Only eventually did they allow things like "email" that could actually be sent outside of AOL's network and then eventually an AOL browser. Only much later did it essentially become an ISP with a homepage/splash screen that came up when you used the client to login.

        I agree you shouldn't call it "Internet Service" if it is a closed network or even if you are throttling various compe

    • Zuckerburg' s approach was in some ways similar to AOL, an approach that stopped being viable in the 1990s.

  • How dare you insult gardens like that!!!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 13, 2016 @07:22PM (#51502785)

    Tim Berners-Lee summed it up when he recently said "All of the internet. For all of the people. For all of the time." and “We should be able to use the Web without worrying about being spied on and without finding that you can’t get to places because the ISP you use has got a deal with somebody else."

  • by MindPrison ( 864299 ) on Saturday February 13, 2016 @07:29PM (#51502825) Journal
    ...Zuckerberg is no different.

    I have nothing against capitalism, but what is almost boring is the predictability of every young successful /millionaire/billionaire: When you have enough, you want more - regardless. His logic is exactly the same as every commercial software company in the world - if someone pirates your software, you have stolen property from the software company. And the pirates logic is exactly the opposite: We haven't stolen anything, it's not a physical item stolen, and besides - there's no guarantee anyone would purchase it anyway. Both sides are right so some extent, yes - potentially lost revenue (not guaranteed), but also potential advertisement (popularity increase = fame & more customers actually wanting the product).

    The entire point is: If we let people get away with endless greed, we're the ones to blame because we just stand by and Zuck it up (pun intended).
  • by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Saturday February 13, 2016 @07:31PM (#51502837)

    Those 100MB of data are valid for 3 days. Please don't write garbage comparing a monthly plan to one that expires in 3 days just to suit your "it costs less than $1" triad. You can make the point just as well by talking about the plans which last a month and can be had for under $2.

    Why the dishonest sensationalism when the real stats prove the point just as well?

    • Are there reliable references for worldwide voice/data fixed/per-byte costs? Using a single data point is poor practice, and I suspect the US is an atypically unrepresentative sample.

    • by davepander ( 609782 ) on Saturday February 13, 2016 @08:35PM (#51503217)
      I think that link has a 300 MB 28 day plan for $1.50 per month, so it's not like the poster is too far off in saying that one third of that would cost less than an dollar.
      • My point exactly. It's not too far off so why embellish?

        That's right, because while mathematically the difference is small, emotionally the difference is huge. Being able to use the words "much less than a dollar" is wonderfully sensationalistic.

    • The real cost to the provider is to have the bandwidth operational for transferring 100MB. Whether you do that in 3 days or 30 is not really relevant to the discussion.
      • The real cost to the provider is to have the bandwidth operational for transferring 100MB. Whether you do that in 3 days or 30 is not really relevant to the discussion

        The discussion has nothing to do with the provider. So we are agreement that it's not at all relevant.

    • Try 50c, you get 125 MB for 28 days (It is a bit less than 50c, it is 0.42c so amortized cost for a month will still be less than 50 cents, it is just easier for me to roundup). http://telecomtalk.info/aircel... [telecomtalk.info]

      This is the pack I use on my backup phone.

  • by gomoku ( 745800 ) on Saturday February 13, 2016 @07:34PM (#51502841) Homepage
    just got confused with India and Indiana it happens.
  • by Irate Engineer ( 2814313 ) on Saturday February 13, 2016 @07:41PM (#51502871)

    $2000 for two years of cell phone service in the US, $500 for the phone and $1500 for the service. Right.

    No fucking way does it cost $500 to make a middle-of-the-pack phone. And no way does it cost $1500 to deliver that service to you.

    It costs $2000 in the U.S. because it is what the market will bear here, and nobody knows any better about the true costs. It's just high enough that people start to bitch about it, but not so much that they can't afford to shell out for it.

    Zuckerberg tried to float this in a market that absolutely can't bear $2000 for this sort of service, a market that already knows it can be done for much less, a market that isn't already in a walled garden and doesn't want to be put in one. Good luck trying to squeeze profit from that market. The Indians are more informed consumers than most people in the U.S.

    • by koan ( 80826 )

      What you said is true, but you can always grab a burner and pay about $3 a month for text, voice and email.

      But then, that depends on who you are, is your entire life wrapped up in your "phone"? (cattle tag).

      Or: http://foorious.com/articles/l... [foorious.com]

      I imagine that terrifies "millennials" =) But that's how I grew up, no one had a phone on them and we did OK.

    • Good luck trying to squeeze profit from that market.

      Who said anything about profit? He could be doing this from the kindness of his yearly tax writeoff.

  • Is what Zuckerberg is trying to create, an internet that's basically the same as TV, what you get to see is decided by someone else.

    Stop using Facebook you're hurting the World.

  • I reckon that if you offered most Australians FREE internet provided they let somebody else "keep it safe" a lot would go for it.

    Anthony

  • by jenningsthecat ( 1525947 ) on Sunday February 14, 2016 @01:40AM (#51504583)

    First-world ivory-tower head-in-the-clouds narcissistic power-tripping douchebag misunderstands developing nation, loses investment, and shows himself as the ass he is. Nothing to see here, move along.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    $50 is still a lot of money for many Indians.

    However the basis problem is the availability of network coverage. Poor people in Indiana villages without any physical access to Internet will get "no signal" if they try to use this free basic things.

    This also applies to many living in the larger cities. If you like in a poor neighborhood cell coverage sucks.

    But the problem here is not that Zuckerberg was wrong in his paper.

    The problem is that he implemented this without taking in feedback or listening to anyon

  • by jma05 ( 897351 ) on Sunday February 14, 2016 @04:11AM (#51504865)

    A month ago, I checked the BSNL plans in India; BSNL is the state owned telecom entity (vs. Airtel and Idea which are private entities). There were many interesting plans.

    This is the most interesting frugal plan I found - 500 MB for $1.50, expires in 12 months.
    The plans are quite flexible. The $1.50 plan gets you 1 GB, if the expiry date is set to 1 month instead.
    There is one for 25 cents - gets you 80 MB with 2 day expiry. You can buy these plans at the counter of many small stores in a minute - Pay the money and tell them your mobile number. They just dial in the refill.

    Here is a page with somewhat different plans.
    http://www.bsnlteleservices.co... [bsnlteleservices.com]
    The cheapest plan here costs just a dime.

    Cable Internet starts at $8 for 2 mbps with bandwidth throttling after 30 GB.
    Cable TV costs $3. So Internet video is less attractive. Netflix recently launched, but perhaps won't catch on since it costs about the same as US.

    So yeah, Facebook wasn't doing much and Internet and critical service access is already very affordable for anyone who can buy a smartphone at $50. Given that this is still a developing country, the enthusiastic online activism for network neutrality was interesting to watch - saying no to short term free stuff, in interest of long term ideals.

  • On my FB account, Zuckerberg invited me to "follow" him. I don't know if I'm annoyed that he didn't "friend" me instead or if I'm nauseated by the fact that over 50 million people "follow" him. I doubt very much that he's changing the world as much as he thinks he is.

  • "Facebook's Free Basics was an ill-conceived effort to bring Internet^H^H^H^H^H^H^HFacebook access to the poor in India."
  • by presidenteloco ( 659168 ) on Sunday February 14, 2016 @07:21PM (#51507777)

    For similar reasons.

    telcomms want their customers to pay them directly for each extra thing. Free access to open internet is disruptive "giving it away" according to them. It's freeing their captive market.

    Facebook also wants everyone to be on facebook, not the open internet, so that all the ad revenue comes to them.

    Free basics - nice strategy to keep the customers within the (pay) walls - if you can get away with it.

HOLY MACRO!

Working...