During 2015, social networking giant Facebook was truly a uniting force through both good times and tragedies and focused its efforts on boosting internet connectivity in India, says its COO in a blog post looking back at the year ready to pass by.
At the same time, its Internet.org programme created deep divides among the intelligentsia, the activists and even within the policymakers. “People found connections in the hardest moments,” Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg observed.
They “came together in ways we had never seen before, sharing news about refugees, raising money for those in need, and marking themselves safe during times of crisis. It was a year for activism and hope”, Sandberg added.
The company pivoted Internet.org to make it more of a developer platform, re-branding the main app as Free Basics.
The ambition of the programme (launched in 2013) has been to connect the “next five billion” people to the internet.
Facebook has collaborated with Indian telecommunication company Reliance Communications in its campaign to make Free Basics available to everyone in India.
But the company has also faced criticism that it violated net neutrality principles, prompting India’s Telecom Regulatory Authority to asking Reliance to cease providing Free Basics in the country.
Besides Internet.org, the company’s efforts to connect people included plans to utilize massive Internet-beaming drones to provide internet access at refugee centres.
Facebook also rolled out a few updates aimed at helping small businesses connect to the mobile generation.
This year also saw the release of 360-degree videos, new advertising tools, and native news products that offer brands and publishers new ways to engage with audiences in both connected and emerging markets.
The next year will continue to see Facebook improve on how brands and developers can advertise to users, something that has been a cash cow for the company, according to a Venturebeat.com analysis.
And of course, there is going to be continued emphasis on Internet.org.