Internet.org by Facebook "provides free access to basic internet services to a billion people all over the world." Their goal is to make the internet available to every person on earth, starting by making certain websites available with no data charges in many areas. The goal of Stack Exchange is "to help the most people we can."

I believe a partnership with Internet.org would help Stack Exchange accomplish its goal of helping as many people as possible by providing access to those who would otherwise be unable to access the Stack Exchange network. Internet.org allows site owners to submit their site and doesn't charge the site owners anything.

There are a few conditions to being part of the program, but I think Stack Exchange is probably meeting them already:

  1. Explore the entire internet

    The Internet.org Platform aims to give people valuable free services that they can use to discover the entire wealth of online services and, ultimately become paying users of the internet. Services should encourage the exploration of the broader internet wherever possible.

    While Stack Exchange answers aim to be self-containing, they also frequently reference external sites that give more detail. I think this meets the requirement of providing value alone while encouraging the exploration of other sites.

  2. Efficiency

    To sustainably deliver free basic internet services to people, we need to build apps that use data very efficiently. Operators have made significant economic investments to bring the internet to people globally, and Internet.org needs to be sustainable for operators so that they can continue to invest in the infrastructure to maintain, improve and expand their networks. Websites that require high-bandwidth will not be included. Services should not use VoIP, video, file transfer, high resolution photos, or high volume of photos.

    Stack Exchange really focuses on performance. The mobile frontpage of Stack Overflow is less than 150KB for a complete download (<50KB without JavaScript). Some sites are more image-heavy and may not be suitable to include in the Internet.org program.

  3. Technical specifications

    Websites must be built to be optimized for browsing on both feature and smartphones and in limited bandwidth scenarios. In addition, websites must be properly integrated with Internet.org to allow zero rating and therefore can’t require JavaScript or HTTPS and must meet these technical guidelines.

    General question browsing works without JavaScript, though some sorting features don't work. Login probably wouldn't be possible without JavaScript, but I think these users may be unlikely to log in, as many actions are already hard on mobile.

Potential Problems

  • Some sites are image-heavy. Sites with many images would probably not be suitable for the program. Participation in the program could start on one site, possibly Stack Overflow, and other sites could be added over time.
  • Lack of JavaScript support would make asking questions difficult or impossible. Asking questions from a phone is already hard, so I don't think we'd be losing anything.
  • Embedded content from other domains is removed. We'd need to get cdn.sstatic.net and stack.imgur.com whitelisted as part of the submission.

Would Stack Exchange consider investigating a partnership with Internet.org as a way to broaden it's impact by becoming available to people with limited internet service? I think this could be an awesome partnership!

Credit for this idea goes to this question.

  • 15
    A partnership with a company known for horrible treatment of personal data and disregard for privacy and a program that's advertised as "THE MORE WE CONNECT, THE BETTER IT GETS" is… somewhat… worrying.
    – bjb568
    Sep 22 '15 at 15:56
  • 1
    @bjb568 Stack Exchange apparently isn't completely against partnerships with Facebook, though that partnership didn't work great, so maybe they are now. Sep 22 '15 at 16:01
  • No JavaScript means the sites would be basically read-only. That doesn't seem all that great. Sep 22 '15 at 18:44
  • @NathanTuggy You're correct. Though I doubt we get anything more than minimal interaction from phones anyway. Sep 22 '15 at 20:29
  • 1
    You are wrong. I post questions through the app and mobile site. I even do reviews, though the experience could be better. @Joshua Sep 22 '15 at 20:37
  • 4
    Not only is Facebook kinda skeezy, this entire project is completely against net neutrality. A Facebook walled garden is not something I want SE supporting.
    – fbueckert
    Sep 22 '15 at 22:11

As I read it, the service Facebook provides is a version of the Internet controlled by Facebook. That wouldn't have been that bad if Facebook was a non-profit organization without the need to make money and with respect for people's privacy. The fact is that we can't be sure that Facebook doesn't do evil stuff with the control they get through this. And in fact I am a little worried because of this.

And one other point: the sites get a lot less useful if they lack the interaction they have now. If the site is restrained to do just basic stuff, this could make the partnership a lot less useful.

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