Facebook has announced Discover, a mobile web and Android app that lets users in developing countries browse any website using free data from mobile operators.
Following the ban of Free Basics in India back in 2016, Facebook is once again testing an app to provide free internet browsing to users in developing countries. Discover, available on the mobile web and as a standalone Android app, lets users browse websites for free, by using a daily balance provided by partner mobile operators.
The app is currently being tested in Peru through selected mobile operators. When using the free data, Discover only supports low bandwidth traffic, and, therefore, data-intensive traffic like video, audio, and others, are not supported. The free balance from operators will vary.
However, Facebook promises that “all websites are treated equally,” it doesn’t collect browsing histories connected to its users, and won’t use users’ activity to target them with ads. More importantly, users won’t even need a Facebook account to use it. Free data will be topped up every day, and users will receive a notification whenever this is available.
Discover is Facebook’s second move in its Free Basics initiative, which aims to bring internet access to regions around the world that have low connectivity. Facebook’s first attempt ended abruptly in India when the country banned it in violation of the principles of net neutrality.
The announcement for Discover doesn’t mention this first iteration, but Product Manager, Yoav Zeevi, explains that Facebook has “listened to feedback and recommendations from civil society groups and other stakeholders, including organizations like the World Wide Web Foundation.” and that the company “developed Discover to address and incorporate those recommendations into a new product that supports connectivity.”
Facebook may have learned its lesson this time, but we’ll just have to find out how Discover will fare. Facebook plans to also launch Discover in a number of other countries, including Thailand, the Philippines, and Iraq.
Users in Peru can access Discover if they use a SIM from mobile operators, Bitel, Claro, Entel, and Movistar.can. They can either download the Discover app for Android or visit 0.discoverapp.com on any mobile web browser.