Facebook’s new Discover app provides free data in developing countries

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Facebook is testing a new app to expand internet access in developing countries. The app, called Discover, provides users with a balance of free browsing data provided by several mobile partners. Facebook is running the first trial in Peru, but it plans to launch in a number of other countries in the future, including Thailand, the Philippines, and Iraq.

Users will receive free data from their provider each day and will get a notification when it’s available. Discover only provides low-bandwidth browsing — so you can load text on a website but not video, audio, or other data-intensive elements. (If you want to stream, you can purchase additional data to do so.)

You don’t need a Facebook account to use Discover. Facebook also claims that the app doesn’t collect users’ browsing histories “in connection with them” and does not store their activity to target Facebook ads.

Discover app screenshots.
Image: Facebook

Discover appears to be a take two of Facebook’s Free Basics initiative, which aimed to provide internet access (and, perhaps, Facebook access) to regions with low connectivity. That service, which allowed subscribers on supported phones to visit select websites (including BBC News, Wikipedia, Bing — and, of course, Facebook and Messenger) without paying for the data usage, was banned in India in 2016. After a lengthy battle, the country’s telecom authority ruled that the program favored some internet services over others, and thus violated the principles of net neutrality. Discover, which doesn’t discriminate between websites, would be more compliant with that standard (though Facebook’s blog post does not mention India as a potential trial country).

To access Discover, Peru residents with a SIM from a partner provider can visit 0.discoverapp.com on any mobile web browser or download the Discover app for Android. Launch partners include Bitel, Claro, Entel, and Movistar.

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