Facebook has announced the trial of a new application called Discover that will allow people to browse any website using a daily balance of free data from participating mobile operators. The application has been built on Facebook’s ‘Free Basics’.
‘Free Basics’ is an initiative that offers access to rudimentary online services without data charges. Facebook’s Product Manager Yoav Zeevi elaborated on the same saying that they have paid heed to feedback and recommendations from civil society groups and stakeholder including the World Wide Web Foundation in developing the app.
- Facebook’s Discover app supports only low-bandwidth traffic when using free data.
- Facebook is conducting the trial of Discover in Peru for now. Discover supports low bandwidth browsing with no support for audio and video.
Discover appears to be a take two of Facebook’s Free Basics initiative, which aimed to provide internet access (and, perhaps, Facebook access) to regions with low connectivity. That service, which allowed subscribers on supported phones to visit select websites (including BBC News, Wikipedia, Bing — and, of course, Facebook and Messenger) without paying for the data usage, was banned in India in 2016. After a lengthy battle, the country’s telecom authority ruled that the program favored some internet services over others, and thus violated the principles of net neutrality. Discover, which doesn’t discriminate between websites, would be more compliant with that standard (though Facebook’s blog post does not mention India as a potential trial country).
Facebook further explained that Discover supports only low-bandwidth traffic when it uses free data. The app doesn’t support data-intensive elements such as video and audio. The Discover app will be available as an Android app and mobile web. Each day, users will get a notification about the balance of data from the participating mobile operator. Beta users can access the Discover mobile web by visiting 0.discoverapp.com
The app does not store browsing history and Facebook has also stated that personal browsing history is not used for targeted ads or suggesting new friends. Also, there is no need to have a Facebook account to use Discover.
To access Discover, Peru residents with a SIM from a partner provider can visit 0.discoverapp.com on any mobile web browser or download the Discover app for Android. Launch partners include Bitel, Claro, Entel, and Movistar.