Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg went to great lengths to rebuild bridges with global mobile operators in Barcelona last night in order to spur a project to bring free internet to the world’s poorest people.
When the founder of the world’s largest social network first called on operators to support him in early 2014 his call was largely ignored, after Facebook acquired WhatsApp, an app which caused a massive fall in SMS revenue for operators.
Mobile networks continue to treat the likes of Google and Facebook with scepticism, seeing them as multi-billion dollar businesses that take advantage of the networks they built.
Zuckerberg ate humble pie last night, going so far as to pass off some of Facebook’s achievements as the operators’ during his speech at the Mobile World Congress.
“We are different from operators. We are trying to help people connect with other people,” he said. “It’s really important to not lose sight of the fact that the ones that are driving this are the operators.”
His comments came with a plea for more mobile operators to support Internet.org, Facebook’s not-for-profit effort to open up mobile internet in the poorest countries in the world and allow free access to basic internet services.
Internet.org has been moderately successful since launching in 2013 with operators in six countries including Zambia, Tanzania and Kenya, signing up.