On Fri, Jan 1, 2016 at 2:02 AM, Marcin Cieslak <saper(a)saper.info> wrote:
You might want to check out some discussions
surrounding the Wikimedia Zero initiative.
From my perspective, there is significant difference
Zero (along with similar, free of charge services) and Free
The first group positively discriminates some websites, the second
group negatively discriminates a part of population.
I don't think the pure form of net-neutrality is sustainable. Many
businesses already have deals with other businesses to provide
something for free or "for free" or for reduced price via their
infrastructure. The classic examples are Coca Cola and Pepsi Cola:
they make a deal with a fast food restaurant to give you their
products for reduced price. And when we come to bits and bytes,
"reduced price" could be zero.
On top of that, we have a number of Internet services of strategic
importance. Wikimedia projects are one of such services. Yes, a number
of Google services and Facebook are such services, as well, along with
a number of services covering similar needs (Yandex and VKontakte in
Russia, for example). It's good to have such services for free (before
or after you spend your data limit).
However, when it comes to limiting access to particular services, it
creates an underclass, capable to participate just in one segment of
Internet. That's quite serious.
I don't think think Zuckerberg's initiative has such idea behind. It's
Coca Cola-like marketing campaign. When you become that big, your
marketing approach becomes big, as well. Familiarizing people with
their products is clever strategy. We know that from three decades of
Microsoft's tolerance of piracy in countries without enough of people
capable to buy their software.
Neither I think the initiative will really create a permanent
underclass. People in underdeveloped regions will eventually become
richer and they won't need this kind of service.
Wikimedia projects will be included inside of such plans even without
WMF's approval. And even if we theoretically could block access, we
shouldn't do that, of course.
There is one more important issue here: It's Facebook's initiative,
but it's also a cartel-like approach to the market. Facebook is not
the only company behind the initiative and the initiative could become
quite powerful and could grow behind giving free access to limited
internet just to the poorest inhabitants of the Earth. It could slip
into a worldwide option, served as default in many settings.
So, there are at least three important reasons why Wikimedia
organizations shouldn't participate in such initiative:
* Most importantly, while I don't think Free Basics will create a
permanent underclass, nobody could guarantee such thing. My position
is based on external factors, not on the design created by the
companies participating in Free Basics. They could work hard on
preserving a kind of status quo by gradually increasing access to
various services, while keeping zero price. In a nightmarish scenario,
we could get two Internets: one censored and one not censored. And
Wikimedia shouldn't support such possible future.
* It's Facebook's business, not ours. I don't think Wikimedia
organizations should be outside of any business deal with for-profit
companies, but I don't think our voice in such initiative could be
* Finally, we belong to the movement which promotes net neutrality as
one of the core values. No matter how realistic it is, we should
support it. Wikipedia Zero is not net-neutral, but Wikimedia projects
are of such significance that it could be tolerated. Going further
into abandoning that principle would create definite divide between us
and the rest of our global super-movement.