Sometimes the most-important innovation required to introduce massive adoption of some new product or technology is the business model. You might point to Uber, the ride sharing service. Its fundamental innovation is the business model, not technology as such.
Some of us would argue that is the importance of Internet.org as well: it is a key business model innovation. In what way, you might ask?
Perhaps surprisingly, according to Chris Daniels, Internet.org VP, nobody is getting paid for anything as part of the Internet.org inititive. Service providers “give away” mobile Internet access. Internet.org develops and hosts the menu of accessible apps, and gets the mobile service providers to participate. No app providers pay Internet.org. Internet.org does not pay the mobile service providers. And end users don’t pay for mobile Internet access.
“Facebook or the developers aren’t paying the operators for the data,” said Daniels. “And developers aren’t paying us to be part of this program. It’s free.”
So why would a mobile service provider give away what it hopes to sell? It is marketing expense. Internet.org encourages people who normally do not use the Internet or its apps to do so. Eventually, a good percentage of those who sample, become customers.
“For an operator, this is a customer-acquisition tool,” said Daniels. “ It’s an expense that they will take in order to bring more people onto the Internet.”
Behind that strategy is an understanding that the whole Internet ecosystem requires sustainability. “It needs to work for, be financially sustainable for, operators,” said Daniels. “And so, the basic services are more text-based.”
Keeping end user costs quite low is an essential requirement for bringing Internet access to hundreds of millions of new users on a sustainable basis. Internet.org helps do that, in a significant way.