Free Internet by Facebook.. Wow.. But Really.. has Net Neutrality gone for a Toss?

This was the questionnaire that i had posted to Facebook’s blog site. I am not very optimistic about a response, but if i do get one, i shall share it here.

“Hi, I am a researcher working on various aspects of the evolving Internet ecosystem. I am sure, that you would have come across this question several times, but, I would like a response from the aspect of Net Neutrality. Is Facebook really promoting and providing free Internet to millions, or is it simply promoting itself? The definition of the Internet, should clearly be, free and Fair access to any website, chosen by an individual, but Facebook clearly isn’t doing the same. It would have made sense if Facebook had indeed made the entire Internet free, or at subsidised costs, without any bias, with users having equal access to any service of their choice. But, that clearly doesn’t seem to be the case.

For instance, I use a competitor to Hungama for my music listening services, but if i switch to your so called ‘Internet.org”, i will have to pay for it. Then, how is this fair and how is this making the Internet available to millions, when the basic rules of Net neutrality have been thumped for a toss? I hope i do get a response.

Read the original Facebook post here., and look at this quote, from that post.

“Today, Facebook and Reliance Communications are making the internet (few websites only, including Facebook, off course) available to millions of people in India through the launch of the Internet.org app and free basic services. This is the first time the Internet.org app will be available in the region.”

FB2

 

P.S : Having made a nice big rant, and although, I do not stand for it, I have long believed that Net Neutrality is not at all viable in the long term, atleast not in India. And this is just a classic example, possibly. And i think, the strongest villain in this debate is the Elephant in the Room, Video, who hardly features in such topics of ‘Net Neutrality’ discussion. This will call for a seperate post. Hope you like the post.

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

How RSS, API and a Free Sharing Culture are driving a vibrant Internet Economy?

For long, Pirates who have supported Copyright Infringment have claimed that Information can no longer be monopolized and monetized through Obsolete Copyright and Patent laws in this digital age, but rather, sharing of information only freely only drives the economy further and is beneficial to everybody through cultural exchange. The copyright Industry may not agree to this theory, but right in front of our eyes, we are living and breathing what the pirates claim. The copyright Industry still continues to live in a closed world, refusing to open out and see reality.

RSS_API_OpenEcosystem

Image credits – All individual company logos were downloaded from the Internet using Google Search. The Face icon and the RSS Clipart were downloaded from clipart.org

Publishing Tools like Twitter and Blogs are easily accessible to anyone and with the Internet itself acting as the main distribution medium, the Internet has made possible for anybody to become a Content Publisher and for Consumers to find their Producers, without any hassles. Using RSS feeds, users can automatically subscribe to hundreds of thousands of such websites, and automatically get updates when each of them individually adds or updates content.

This short personal example demonstrates not only the benefits of free sharing, but also the pitfalls of a centralized monopolized system. Last year, when Google announced that it was killing the Google Reader, it killed not just an application but thousands of services built around the Google Reader API. If Google Reader was the only service, then the entire ecosystem would have collapsed. Thankfully, there is so much decentralization in the Internet, that such a thing would never happen.

Services like Feedly and Flipboard and a few smaller services stepped up to replace the Google Reader. In hindsight it may have been a blessing in disguise for small services like Feedly, which may never have been able to compete with giants like Google Reader. Feedly subsequently developed its own cloud infrastructure and now uses Google’s API for authentication.

So, in the small example shown above. When ever, I find an interesting article on the Internet, I add it to the Feedly Cloud, using a small Web Browser Add-On. From there, I have linked my Reeder 2 Ipad App to Feedly, which downloads my daily feeds offline on my Ipad. From this App, I transfer which ever, I feel necessary for permanent storage into my Evernote Account. As an individual that suffers from Attention Deficit Disorder, I use the Voice Dream Reader to import specific notes from Evernote locally into the Voice Dream Reader app which reads out the content for me, automatically, using its inbuilt advanced ‘Text To Speech‘ engine.

There are 2 important aspects here, in this example. It is thanks to RSS, that website feeds can be easily tracked and automated. The Second is a contemporary phenomenon, that is driving tremendous growth across multiple services – Opening out of their individual API’s that can be used as integration with other services. The phenomenon has become so successful that this has led to the evolution of specialist services that link multiple services through API’s like IFTTT ( If This then That.)

The opening out of API represents a modern outlook, which does not fit with what the obsolescent views of the Copyright Industry. From a copyright Industry’s perspective, they wish to block any accesses of information leakage, which they think might reduce their profits. This view of thought positions the producer’s interest first, and the consumer’s next. Modern Internet services think in the opposite direction. By opening out their API, they give other services an opportunity to provide a possible better user experience than their own.This represents the ‘User First, Producer Next’ approach.

For instance, only by connecting the Reeder App to the Feedly Cloud, you can download the articles from the Feedly Cloud into the Reeder App and use it. Since Feedly had its own App, the simplest thing it could have done was close out its API, and force users to read from its own App. This may have yielded short term results, but long term consequences, because if the rest of the ecosystem collapsed, it would take down Feedly along with it. Another prime example of this concept is Evernote. Evernote already has its app for multiple platforms. Yet, it allows other apps to build their own Evernote clients, which could possibly even replace the stock Evernote client, if the user felt that it provided them with a better experience.

This API culture also forces services to remain innovative constantly and compete with their competitors ( although they have symbiotic relationships through their API), rather than fall into a world of complacency and stagnate, thereby providing no value to the end user in the long run, which is something many modern day Pirates accuse the Copyright Industry of doing so.

One can see from the above small example that the same information has flowed through the various pipes, before it reached the hands of the user, only because of the mentality to allow sharing of Information, through API integration. In this process, it has benefitted each entity. The information created by the creators is as much protected by Copyright and Patent Law, as the ones created by big production and media houses. Yet, unlike the former (in most cases), by allowing this information to flow freely, it is creating sustainability for several services that work through this small ecosystem of Information exchange, benefitting the creator, the Intermediaries and the end user, thereby driving Competition, Innovation and the entire Digital Ecosystem forward.