Recently, Mark Zuckerberg—Facebook's CEO—brought something unusual to his Facebook profile page. It wasn't where he'd had dinner or pictures of a dog or much of the common fare that ordinarily hits Facebook. Rather, he brought out word of Facebook's involvement with a string of companies—including names like Nokia, Samsung and Qualcomm—to create Internet.org, a group out to bring Internet access to the surprisingly large portion of the planet that doesn't yet have Internet access.
As it turns out, only around a third of the world's population has access to Internet service at this point, meaning 2.7 billion are on, but another roughly five billion are out of the loop. In many places, it's difficult to get a proper Internet hookup in place due to challenges of cost, topology, and several other factors that get in the way of building out. But the founders of Internet.org are out to change that by working on a set of joint projects—including the sharing of knowledge as need be—and getting industry together to put together the necessary tools and techniques to help get the rest of the world online.
Zuckerberg expanded somewhat on his involvement with Internet.org, offering up a statement on his timeline that said, “Everything Facebook has done has been about giving all people around the world the power to connect. There are huge barriers in developing countries to connecting and joining the knowledge economy. Internet.org brings together a global partnership that will work to overcome these challenges, including making Internet access available to those who cannot currently afford it.”
Indeed, it's not just developing countries that have a hard time with Internet access. Large portions of the United States are limited to satellite Internet as the only means aside from dial-up for Internet access. That's preventing a lot of services from being truly useful in those areas. Worse, there are some areas for which Internet access of any kind is just a far-off dream. It's not surprising to see Facebook take an interest in more universal Internet access; the more people online total, the more likely it is to see hikes in the total user count on Facebook which in turn can drive advertising numbers and improve the stock value. Meanwhile, getting major hardware dealers like Samsung, Nokia, Qualcomm and at last report Ericsson involved gives those dealers a chance to sell more hardware to access the newly-available Internet.
It's a win-win for a lot of different companies; more access means more hardware, more access means more users of apps and software, more access means more eyeballs and more click-through for advertisers. Getting the best possible access to the most possible places means a lot of value for a lot of people, so seeing Internet.org launch to promote just that is both rational and expected. Just how far it goes, however, is anyone's guess as yet.
Edited by Alisen Downey