“For nine years, we’ve been on a mission to connect the world. We now connect more than 1 billion people, but to connect the next 5 billion we must solve a much bigger problem: the vast majority of people don’t have access to the Internet,” Zuckerberg wrote.
He points out that the people who already use Facebook “have way more money than the rest of the world combined.” That means it may “not actually be profitable for us to serve the next few billion people for a very long time, if ever. But we believe everyone deserves to be connected.”
Most of Facebook’s users live outside the U.S., and much of the site’s new user base will come from developing countries in the years ahead. And while most Americans first got online using desktop computers, many of the Internet’s newest users are bypassing PCs entirely, relying on mobile phones instead.
Javier Olivan, vice president of growth and analytics at Facebook, said Facebook’s move continues what the company has already been doing to get more people online. This includes “Facebook For Every Phone,” an app that launched in 2011 to let people with simple, non-smartphones use Facebook. Facebook says it has invested more than $1 billion so far to connect people in the developing world to the Internet.
The Internet.org project is Zuckerberg’s latest venture that seeks to meld philanthropy with ambition.
The billionaire CEO made his first charitable splash in 2010, two years before his company went public, when he donated $100 million in Facebook Inc. stock to Newark, N.J., schools. He later gave another $500 million to a Silicon Valley charity with the aim of funding health and education issues. Earlier this year, he launched Fwd.us, a political group aimed at changing immigration policy, boosting education and encouraging investment in scientific research.
Wireless equipment company Ericsson, Web browser developer Opera Software and MediaTek, another wireless semiconductor company, are also founding members of Internet.org.
Google Inc., which is not a part of the Internet.org effort, launched a similar undertaking earlier this year with the goal of getting everyone on Earth online. Called Project Loon, the effort launched Internet-beaming antennas aloft on giant helium balloons.