NEW YORK » Facebook wants to get more of the world’s more than 7 billion people — all of them, actually — online through a partnership with some of the world’s largest mobile technology companies.
Facebook Inc. announced a partnership called Internet.org today. In addition to the world’s biggest online social network, the group also includes Korean electronics giant Samsung, Finnish handset maker Nokia and wireless chip maker Qualcomm Inc.
Facebook said the group’s goal is to "make Internet access available to the two-thirds of the world who are not yet connected" — about 5 billion people.
The group’s plans include developing cheaper smartphones and tools that would reduce the amount of data required to run apps. For Facebook, the move would certainly add more users to its current 1.15 billion, but CEO Mark Zuckerberg paints it as something bigger.
"For nine years, we’ve been on a mission to connect the world. We now connect more than 1 billion people, but to connect the next 5 billion we must solve a much bigger problem: the vast majority of people don’t have access to the internet," Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook page along with a paper titled "Is Connectivity A Human Right?"
He points out that the people who already use Facebook "have way more money than the rest of the world combined." That means it may "not actually be pro?table for us to serve the next few billion people for a very long time, if ever. But we believe everyone deserves to be connected."
Javier Olivan, vice president of growth and analytics at Facebook, said the move continues what the company has already been doing to get more people online. This includes "Facebook For Every Phone," an app that launched in 2011 to let people with simple, non-smartphones use Facebook.
Wireless equipment company Ericsson, Web browser developer Opera Software and MediaTek, another wireless semiconductor company, are also founding members of Internet.org.
Google Inc., which is not a part of the Internet.org effort, launched a similar undertaking earlier this year with the goal of getting everyone on Earth online. Called Project Loon, the project launched Internet-beaming antennas abroad giant helium balloons into the stratosphere.