South Africans are well-familiar with various zero-rated services that are free to access regardless of whether one has mobile data available or not; and perhaps a now distant memory is the likes of Facebook’s Free Basics platform which was designed to equip customers in emerging markets with a variety of services for free. Now, the firm is back with a new effort called Discover.
Discover, which is now being tested in Peru and is set to expand to Thailand, the Philippines, and Iraq later this year. Downloading the app rewards customers with a free allocation of mobile data from their network, which is delivered alongside a notification. Using Discover, users can, of course, visit Facebook and its child services such as Messenger as well as other any other website – however, browsing will be limited to text only; rich media such as images, videos, or other scripted applications won’t load.
The bid is yet another move that coerces customers into the Facebook ecosystem. Unlike Free Basics, however, Facebook won’t require users to have an active account in order to use the service – though providing users with front-page access to Facebook itself doesn’t hurt either.
Discover, broadly, appears highly reminiscent of Free Basics itself, which was subject to legal challenges in India given claims that Facebook had created an anti-competitive platform that entrenched its market dominance. Broadly, Discover also sits among Facebook’s myriad efforts to ‘connect the unconnected’ and to encourage user growth from regions around the world with poor or unstable internet access, such as its cancelled Aquila drone.
Peruvian citizens are able to use Discover through either visiting a URL or downloading a mobile app so long as they’re a client of one of four partner mobile networks. While it’s unclear as to whether Discover will make its way to South Africa, the fact that we’ve enjoyed Free Basics in the past makes the possibility likely.
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