Connecting the world to the internet is hard work. It takes a significant amount of money, a lot of effort and much time. That doesn’t have to be a competition between companies. Facebook, Google and telecommunication companies working to connect the world. And to make things happen, they have to work together to benefit one another, and for the rest of the people that they aim to target.
Facebook with its Internet.org initiative has given "free" internet access to places that weren't yet connected before, or have difficulties in getting one.
"We are trying to help people connect with other people," said Mark Zuckerberg.
Zuckerberg has emphasized that Facebook's primary goal is to connect billions of other people to the internet. But to connect the rest of the world to the internet requires with less to no charge at all, needs all helping hands. Facebook has to work with others.
While Facebook's Internet.org and Google's Project Loon have the same mission, their strategy may not be the same. They are, from the start, compete with one another. But there is no question that to make that mission possible, both need all the help they can get.
Since no one company can bring connectability at a scale of billions of people, Facebook is open to Google's Project Loon.
"When we launched the Internet.org app in Zambia with our operator partner there…one of the apps we launched with was Google Search, because search is an important product and piece of functionality people around the world want. I would love to do more with them, and Sundar (Pichai, Google SVP) talked about their apps being more in partnership with Internet.org."
The same answer also came from Google's Sundar Pichai.
One Mission, Many Ways
Despite both Google and Facebook have the same aim, they approach their target in a different manner. For Google, internet access is essential, for Facebook, the barrier to access are really the cost and lack of education.
"90 percent of people in the world already live in range of a network. While it's kind of sexy to talk about satellites [lasers, and other high-tech ways to distribute an internet connection], the real work happens here", said Zuckerberg.
The Internet.org and its mobile partners are making the investments, and bets, to build network structures, and are trying to free the internet from costs to limited parts of the web. Those free-of-charge places on the internet are limited to a set of "basic Internet services": Facebook, Facebook Messenger, health tips, civic participation instructions, human rights information, and sometimes third-party services like Google Search and Wikipedia.
Internet accessibility is a social good mission for Facebook, but it must be a sustainable business for mobile carriers. If giving away access doesn't eventually lead to more data plan sales for them, carriers won't be supporting them.
To make everyone happy, access to any other part of the web other than the ones said above, requires the user to buy data plans. Zuckerberg said the initial feedback from telecommunication partners in those countries was positive.
"Even if they have never used internet in their life, they have basic services they can use - communication, health, education and jobs - and that basically serves as an onramp so people can learn why they would want to pay for data. And we are finding that is growing paid subscribers and overall subscribers of the Internet," continued Zuckerberg.
"The overwhelming feedback we're hearing from our partners is that it works. It grows the Internet and grows their business. Those are the two things we set out to work with partners to do and we're really excited."
To keep operators business market out of Facebook, the Internet.org's app is customized for each country and telecom operator, so as to lure in new users while not hurting the operator's already existing base of customers with free versions of services they already pay for.
On a long-term, internet access to those that previously don't have, will help people, and the business that are connected to it. Not to mention the potential Facebook and Google have as the facilitators.
As forging a relationship for the same mission could make those unconnected people to be become loyal to Facebook and Google, monetizing them is tough. People in developing nations have low buying power, and their currencies aren't equivalent.
But by becoming the facilitators, the doors for both Facebook and Google in making money is always open. As long as they keep doing the pace of connecting people to the services they actually need, not always the ones that they like.