Facebook Tests New App "Discover" That Allows Users To Browse For Free


Facebook is testing a new mobile app called Discover. The Discover app will allow users to browse text on any mobile website for free for a limited time. This move highlights Facebook’s efforts towards expanding internet access across the globe.

The company’s vision to connect the whole world faced hurdles in countries, including India. India banned Facebook’s program called ‘Free Basics’ back in 2016. Facebook denied that Free Basics was a threat to net neutrality and opened the Free Basics to developers to add more websites in the app.

The trial of the Discover app displays Facebook’s response towards the criticism the company is facing for its connectivity efforts. These efforts could also help Facebook gain extra users in developing countries. The significant difference between Free Basics and Discover app is that Discover lets users browse any website via a daily balance of free data from the mobile operators participating in the initiative. On the other hand, Free Basics allows provides access to specific sites, and users from more than 55 countries can use the Free Basics app.

According to Facebook, the goal of Discover is to support people with inconsistent internet access. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of bridging the digital divide, and it can be specifically difficult for people living in rural areas or with low-income to get a reliable internet connection.

A product manager at Facebook Yoav Zeevi stated in a blog post that Discover would help people stay connected when their internet connections drop for a limited time after they have drained their mobile data until.

The amount of free data depends on mobile operators. In the Peru (a country in western South America) trial, each operator is providing 10MB mobile data daily. Facebook stated that the initial testing displayed that people could load about 10 to 40 websites with this free data. Facebook is planning to expand the service in other countries such as Iraq, Thailand, and the Philippines in the upcoming weeks, and it is expected that mobile operators in these countries will offer up to 20MB of free data per day. Facebook does not plan to release Discover in India, and the company will not pay the mobile operators to provide free mobile data.

Facebook will not store the browsing history of the users, plus it will let users use the Discover app without a Facebook account. People in Peru can access Discover, which is available in Spanish and English in Peru by visiting 0.discoverapp.com, and the app is also available on Google Play Store it the users are using SIM cards from operators such as Bitel, Entel, Movistar, or Claro.

Users will not be able to view content involving the use of ‘data-intensive traffic’ and will show a list of the most popular sites in Peru. Discover may ultimately replace Free Basics program if the trial goes well. Various advocacy groups have criticized the company’s connectivity efforts. Zeevi said that the initiative could help people stay connected, and Facebook is facing multiple challenges in its connectivity efforts.

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