Mark Zuckerberg likes to say he focuses on those things that have the biggest impact. So it should be no surprise that his latest project, called Internet.org, looks to bring free Internet data access to the 5 billion people who currently do not have it.
It’s a noble idea. But it also seems kind of Machiavellian — especially considering Facebook (FB) needs to find ways to keep growing its user base.
Zuck wrote up a “rough” white paper (you can check it out here) about Internet.org, where he says: “I believe connectivity is a human right, and that if we work together we can make it a reality.” But it will be far from easy. The fact is that much of the focus will be on mobile users — and data access is incredibly expensive.
We’re talking about real estate, electricity, spectrum licenses and so on. Basically, the price tag for a data plan is often too steep for people who live in developing nations.
So Zuck posits we need a radical rethinking of networks and infrastructure. In fact, the main vision is to dramatically improve the efficiency of the data-access ecosystem.
Part of this will be to find ways to optimize datacenters, including better servers and caching. But Zuckerberg also believes the mobile experience should be different, too — more text-based content, which result in reduced loads on the network. Even this modest goal will involve the use of sophisticated compression technology.
By taking these actions, Zuck thinks it is “reasonable to expect the overall eﬃciency of delivering data to increase by 100x in the next 5–10 years.”
So to get things started, he has assembled a group of top-notch partners. They include Ericsson (ERIC), MediaTek, Nokia (NOK), Opera, Qualcomm (QCOM) and Samsung (SSNLF) — companies with experience in both mobile and developing markets.
Again, Zuck’s plan is still in the formative stages. In other words, expect lots of new ideas. His white paper is really a smart way to spark creativity.
And yes, success for Internet.org is important for Facebook. With an existing user base of more than 1 billion people, it’s not easy to find new users. More importantly, Zuck is not looking at spending huge sums of money. Consider that his white paper had a lot to say about business models and incentives.
So, by creating strong partnerships and finding creative ways to realize efficiencies, Facebook seems to have a smart plan to keep up its growth rate.
Tom Taulli runs the InvestorPlace blog IPO Playbook. He is also the author of High-Profit IPO Strategies, All About Commodities and All About Short Selling. Follow him on Twitter at @ttaulli. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.