A portion of the internet, that can be accessed without a data plan.
Imagine this you are hungry and want to eat, you step outside your house to eat but the government says the road to McDonalds is toll free but to take the road to a little known local hotel it will cost you 10 rupees, Most people will take the road to McDonalds because they dont have to pay anything. Eventually all the customers will head to McDonalds and not the local hotel. What happens to the local hotel ? it eventually gets shutdown as there are no customers and they cant afford to offer subsidies like the McDonalds.
What will happen ?
Our next generation of kids will start using the internet.org supported websites so that they don’t have to spend money on extra data charges. They will default to facebook as a social network, Instagram as photo sharing service and Facebook messenger as Chat application and so on. They will grow up inside a walled garden where they are provided with the illusion of choice, while facebook increases its user base in its core and allied services. The internet they know will only comprise of websites and services that are either powered by facebook or partners with facebook.
Why there is a problem with this ?
A company like facebook, which was started by college kids back in 2004 in their dorm room exists today as a 250 billion dollar company because the internet was a neutral place. Imagine if friendster or myspace had created something similar to internet.org in 2004 then it would have been impossible for facebook to exist, as they couldnt possibly have the money to compete with such free services.
What it means to small indian startups ?
If internet.org or Airtel Zero like services become mainstream then there will be no facebook or google coming out of India, as these companies simply will not be able to match and offer free data plan to entice users to try out their services. With the short sighted implementation such free services we are essentially breaking the back bone of smaller startups and are depriving our country of home grown multi-billion dollar companies. Think if flipkart would exist today if amazon had done a free tier service back in 2009 ?
All this reminds me of a particular event in history during which the British cut off the thumbs of our weavers and imposed taxes to bring textile production to a stand still so that they can dump their mass produced cheap textiles in our market, and eventually destroying our home grown economy.
Please don’t let them cut our thumbs, once again.”