Wednesday, December 13

Mark Zuckerberg at IIT Delhi

Facebook is the world’s most popular social network with a market capitalisation of $250 billion. It was founded by 20-year old Mark Zuckerberg as a student at Harvard University. Today, the ‘student’ is 31, is worth $35.7 billion. He also happened to visit IIT Delhi for a townhall.

India is an important market

We’ve heard that before. India is important. In fact, any country with the kind of population as India ought to be an important market for a product such as Facebook that revolves around the central mission of connecting people. During the recent townhall with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Zuckerberg changed his profile picture in support of the Digital India initiative of the Government of India.

Identifying the opportunity that exists in India, he said that a billion people in India aren’t connected to the internet in India. He added that Facebook will continue to work towards bring this next billion people to the Internet and will invest towards those efforts.

‘Internet.org isn’t anti-net neutrality’

We must admit, that caught us by surprise. All along people have been opposing Internet.org left, right and centre. And here was Zuckerberg advocating it as the basic need for the next billion people. In a brilliant pitch for the case of internet.org and its basic free service announced recently, we realised that Mark Zuckerberg’s pet project internet.org was an open platform.

Was all the criticism of a free internet service, for naught? But that’s exactly what we took away from the initial part of the townhall. As it progressed, what we realised was that internet.org is a model – an open model as Zuckerberg would term it – upon which a bouquet of free services would reside. According to a statement by Zuckerberg, if any app qualifies for what is a free and essential service, it wouldn’t be charged by Facebook to be a part of the free basic service. In fact, he went on to hint that anyone prioritising one data packet over the other such as charging extra for watching a YouTube or a Netflix video would be wrong.

Zuckerberg also stressed on the need for regulation, and strong net neutrality laws. So here’s someone who’s witnessed strong opposition to a supposedly noble idea that he has been trying to push into a reality. Just yesterday, the European Union voted against a few amendments that were introduced to support net neutrality. One key takeaway was that Facebook would do what it needs to do. The onus lies with the regulatory authority. Effectively, protecting our liberty and freedom online lies with TRAI.

Facebook will do newer things to grow

In response to a question around the use of sensors in modern technology, Zuckerberg went on to explain how he had no clue that the social network he created would have gotten as big as it is today. In fact, he explained how he had built things earlier in his life, during his years in school, and had no clue that he would ever build a social network.

He said those who criticised him during the early days of Facebook commented that people would use it for some time and then they would give up, or that Facebook would never make money. Facebook went on to make money, because it was an idea they believed in and never gave up. Zuckerberg did hint at the willingness to try out new things such as virtual and augmented reality to give an experience that surpasses expectations. Hopefully, virtual and augmented tours of heritage sites would be a reality on Facebook in the more recent future than expected.

Facebook wants to improve human life

In response to another query around disasters and rescue, Zuckerberg added that they would work with governments across the markets they operate in and Facebook would help finding missing people. It would continue to help during disasters such as earthquakes. An example was a tool similar to the Person Finder that could help find missing people.

Zuckerberg also shared an interesting statistic that for every 10 people who are connected to the internet, one of them finds a better job! According to Zuckerberg, if a fisherman is on the internet, he needs to be able to sell more fish, and he should be supported in his efforts to do that. Zuckerberg believes bringing the next billion online would help him accomplish his mission of connecting people.

It was a repeat of the townhall with PM Modi

Much of the announcements made by Zuckerberg were reminiscent of the townhall with PM Modi earlier this year. In fact, the townhall appeared like a concise version of what Facebook intends to do to fulfil its mission of connecting people across the globe. In a video released earlier this year, Zuckerberg urged developers to create apps that use lesser data by not relying on video, large images, VoIP or security features.

Over the months ahead, we hope authorities in India and Facebook are able to work more closely for the betterment of life of 1.25 billion Indians.

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