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Wireless Technologies

F8: Facebook's free internet plan is working, albeit slowly

Many have been critical of Mark Zuckerberg’s plan to solve the world’s problems by giving everyone access to the internet through his Internet.org project, but his plan for world domination seems to be working.

While introducing new Facebook’s Free Basics features at this week’s F8 conference, we learned that the free internet service – derided by many over net neutrality concerns – is now available in 37 countries and has seen 25 million people sign up, according Ime Archibong, director of product partnerships, and Emeka Afigbo, manager for product partnerships for Middle East and Africa.

While that’s a tiny proportion of those 37 countries’ populations - under 1.7% of a combined 1.4 billion reach - half of all Internet.org users buy a data plan from their telco within 30 days of trying Facebook's free service.

However you cut it, a 50% conversion rate it pretty good. A cynic might suggest some downgraded to try free internet before going back to a paid service, but that’s still millions realising that a life with decent and open internet is one they are willing to pay for.

Internet.org wants the service to eventually be available in more than a 100 countries – and even it maintains a fairly low take-up, it could still see hundreds of millions of people becoming fully-fledged netizens. Imagine how pleased Facebook, the mobile internet providers and handset makers will be.

Additional reading:

Facebook’s free internet: Fighting a losing battle?

“Facebook for All” comes to Colombia

Should we ‘unlike’ Facebook’s Internet.org for emerging markets?

The race to connect Africa through satellite technology

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Dan Swinhoe

Dan is a journalist at CSO Online. Previously he was Senior Staff Writer at IDG Connect.

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