What is Facebook Zero?

Facebook Zero is an initiative of Facebook, Inc. in collaboration with mobile phone-based internet providers aimed at waiving data charges for accessing Facebook on mobile phones. It is a simplified text-only version of Facebook where photos are not loaded by default. If you choose to view photos or watch a video, regular data charges will apply. Facebook Zero was launched in May 2010 in emerging markets to address data caps issues.

Facebook Zero’s Supported Countries and Providers

Facebook, Inc. provides technical support to internet providers to make service provision costs as low as possible. Supported countries and providers include the following:

CountryTelecom Provider
AlbaniaTelekom Albania
AlgeriaDjezzy, Mobilis
AngolaUnitel S.A
Bosnia HerzegovinaEronet
CanadaFreedom Mobile
CroatiaBonbon, Hrvatski Telekom, Simpa, Tomato, Vipnet, MultiPlus Mobile
El SalvadorMovistar
GreeceWIND Hellas
IndonesiaXL Axiata
JordanZain Jordan
MoroccoMaroc Telecom
PakistanTelenor Pakistan, Jazz Pakistan, Zong Pakistan
PanamaCable & Wireless Communications
PhilippinesGlobe Telecom, Smart
QatarVodafone Qatar
Saudi ArabiaSaudi Telecom
South AfricaMTN
Trinidad and TobagoDigice
United Arab EmiratesDu
United KingdomThree

Pros of Facebook Zero

The launching of Facebook Zero has helped users in several ways including the following:

  • Facebook Zero solves the internet access problem, enabling many users have an access to Facebook without a data bundle.
  • Since its not clogged up with images and videos, Facebook Zero loads faster. You can update your status, like or comment on posts, send and reply to messages, view your News Feed, or write on your friends’ wall faster.

Cons of Facebook Zero

Although its launch enabled more people especially in developing countries have free access to the Facebook, it has several negatives:

  • Facebook Zero is not available to everyone. You need to be a customer of an operator that is collaborating with Facebook in offering zero-rated services. For instance, if you are in Angola, you can only use Facebook Zero with Unitel.
  • Facebook Zero is only valid if you don’t open images or click links to other websites. Data charges will apply if you do so.
  • Facebook Zero does not adequately meet the linguistic needs where it operates. It has failed to operate in more than one language in multilingual countries like the Philippines, Ghana and Pakistan.
  • You cannot use Facebook Zero while connected via Wi-Fi or if your web browser is Opera Mini. This is because, your connection goes through an overseas server and you will be charged for this service.
  • Facebook Zero violates net neutrality laws. People need fairness in accessing and using Facebook services. However, Facebook Zero does not fulfill that need as it prioritizes access to some services.
  • Internet providers striving to provide free internet access are finding it expensive and time consuming.

On 1st June 2014, Chile stopped using Facebook Zero stating that it violates net neutrality laws. Regulators in India also banned Facebook Zero in February 2016 on account of discriminatory tariffs for data services on the basis of content. In July 2017, Global Voices Advox published a report which concluded that Facebook’s Free Basic, which Facebook Zero is part of, focuses on Western corporate content, therefore violating net neutrality.

Possible Tech Solutions for Facebook Zero’s Limitations

Although Facebook Zero has enabled many people across the globe access Facebook for free, it also has several limitations. The following are possible tech solutions to some of its limitations:

  • Being a major source of information, Facebook can use artificial intelligence to sort through information to ensure that it is genuine and user friendly. This will greatly reduce the circulation of fake news.
  • It seems technically feasible to create a Facebook messenger bot that fetches Wikipedia pages to be read without data. By doing so, users will have access to much more quality information for free.
  • Additionally, someone could create an Android app plus a browser plugin that can use Facebook messages to give people free internet.

Final Thoughts on Facebook Zero

Facebook Zero’s main aim was to help people who couldn’t afford the expensive data charges have an access to the internet. This has made the world more open and connected as many people can now access and gather information. However, it also comes with some flaws, including violating net neutrality laws, only available in countries where internet providers collaborate with Facebook, etc.

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