Did you know that two-thirds of the world is unable to connect to the Internet? I sure didn’t, but it makes sense if you think about it.
That means the majority of the world’s people can’t access endless archives of scholarly knowledge, find how to treat ailments with a single click, or check tomorrow’s weather on a whim. Approximately five billion people are missing out on the single most powerful piece of technology that exists today.
But things are about to change. Several large web and communication companies – including Facebook, Samsung, Ericsson and Qualcomm – are teaming up in an effort to make internet access affordable and widespread.
It’s called internet.org, and it’s a global partnership that launched last month. The initiative’s big vision is to connect the world, and personally I think their ideas are intriguing. They theorize that two major steps will bring globally-accessible Internet:
- Lowering the behind-the-scenes costs of data delivery
- Decreasing data usage by pushing development efficiency across the board
This is by no means achievable overnight. The organization’s goal is to boost efficiency and lower costs across the industry over the next 5 to 10 years, after which it will be economically feasible to broaden access.
Big ideas, but how exactly do they plan to achieve them? I took a look at Internet.org’s 70-page white paper, and here’s the first look at what they’ve done and where they’re headed:
- The creation of highly efficient, cost-effective and environmentally sustainable data centers. Facebook’s most recent (and most powerful) data center in Sweden is run completely by renewable hydroelectric power and cooled using air from the great outdoors.
How Do We Give Internet To the Whole World?
Image from Facebook
- The use of “vanity free” facility design. By removing parts that don’t serve functional purposes, initial costs are driven down and power efficiency is often boosted.
- The ability to handle over 10 petabytes (that’s over ten million gigs, or ten thousand terabytes) of data every day. Facebook’s data infrastructure, as a whole, currently processes this much in a 24 hour period, and they’re keeping up with absurdly fast growth (its data warehouse has grown by more than 4000x over the past four years).
- A variety of technologies that make data processing and delivery faster and more efficient. Facebook has developed innovative tools such as Giraph, Avatarnode and Corona to do just that.
- Creating geographically diverse user experience. Facebook already offers its services in over 70 different languages to accommodate the growing variety of people and cultures adopting its use.
- Compatibility on a huge array of different devices and operating systems. Each manufacturer’s products operate differently, and even various models by the same manufacturer can vary in the way they run and display an application or program.
How Do We Give Internet To the Whole World?
Image from 33rdSquare
- Instead of focusing solely on the latest and most powerful devices, Facebook is adapting to existing mobile technology as well. They’re creating more manageable applications that run on older feature phones and tap into the majority market of people who have yet to use smartphones.
- Services and apps that run on a variety of networks and connection speeds. Facebook simulates user experience while developing its apps by testing operations on all sorts of networks (catering to users that don’t necessarily have access to the fastest connections, such as those in developing countries).
- Experiences that “degrade gracefully” in situations where low data usage is pertinent. Facebook keeps this in mind with its “Facebook For Every Phone” initiative, giving users with a barebones data plan a flawless experience regardless of their network and data usage.
- Optimized image resolutions. Images are the leading source of data usage on Facebook (and many mobile applications), so they’ve created ways to compress file sizes and optimize experience for use on smaller screens.
- Staying ahead of the curve: embracing a “1000x Challenge” will catalyze progress in network availability and connection speeds. The goal is to meet a processing demand that’s 1000 times higher than today, and companies such as Qualcomm are currently committing a significant amount of resources to do so.
This is only the tip of the iceberg. It’s too soon to know what Internet.org is really capable of, but we’ll be keeping our eyes on them.
The mobile computing industry is moving a mile a minute, and collaborative efforts from the major players will undoubtedly bring remarkable new advancements. We’ve seen how far they’ve come thus far, and now it’s just a matter of time before connecting the world isn’t such a farfetched idea.
Your move, Internet.
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