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Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said on Wednesday India would be crucial in getting “the next billion online” and that the company continued to ‘lobby’ for net neutrality. Speaking to students at the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, Zuckerberg said widening internet access was vital to economic development in a country where a billion people are still not online.
Here are five key takeaways from a Townhall Q&A Zuckerberg held at the IIT Delhi:
1) India is the most important market for Facebook
More than 130 million Facebook users live in India. That’s a significant number, not only because it’s huge, but also because that’s over a tenth of Facebook’s 1.4-billion user base around the world. India is the second largest market for Facebook and with more than a billion people in the country still not connected to the internet, it is also the biggest opportunity.
“Our mission is to connect everyone in the world, and you can’t do that without connecting India,” said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. “I actually think that connecting people in India is the most important thing you can do for the whole world, not just India,” he said.
2) Virtual reality is the future of social networking
The tech world did a double take in 2014 when Facebook announced that it was buying Oculus VR, the makers of the Oculus Rift, a virtual reality headset, for $2 billion. What did a social network want to do with virtual reality? At the Townhall, Zuckerberg explained why he believed that virtual reality was the future of social networking.
“I think people get richer and richer mediums of sharing [experiences] as time goes on,” he said. “First, it was just text on the internet, then it was photos. Now we are entering the bold age of internet videos. But a video is still just a 2D experience on a small screen. I think people want an even richer medium. You want to feel like you’re there. And at some point, you’re going to be able to share these [immersive] virtual reality experiences through your News Feed or WhatsApp.”
3) Artificial intelligence is also the future of social networking
Facebook is adding more intelligence to Messenger, its instant messaging platform. It’s currently testing a virtual assistant called M within Messenger, which is powered by both algorithms and humans, and lets you do everything from booking flights to finding great deals when shopping online.
“In five to 10 years, we want to build computer systems that are better at conceiving and recognising things than humans,” said Zuckerberg.
“There’s increasingly going to be more intelligence in the things you do [online].”
4) Internet.org supports net neutrality but is against banning zero-rating
Zuckerberg stressed that Facebook’s controversial platform, Internet.org (later rebranded as Free Basics) fully supports net neutrality. “But the company is against banning zero-rating,” he said.
“Good net neutrality provisions are blocking things that hurt people but also prioritising zero-rating. If you’re a student and are getting free access without which you won’t be able to do your homework, who’s getting hurt? If you’re a fisherman and get to sell your fish because of free internet, that’s good. We want that” he said.
Zuckerberg also added that while there are plenty of anti-Internet.org petitions online, people who can’t get on the internet due to access or affordability reasons can’t sign them. “We all have a moral responsibility to look out for people with no internet access,” he said.
5) Candy Crush invites are going to be a thing of the past
“We’re working on a solution to address that,” said Zuckerberg. He, however, moved on to the next question without elaborating further.