How Facebook Stumbled On Its Quest to Give Internet Away For Free

On a Tuesday afternoon in May 2010, a Facebook program manager named Sid Murlidhar published a blog post announcing “another way for people to access Facebook anytime, anywhere.” It was called 0.Facebook, literally a URL you could type into your mobile phone’s browser that called up a stripped-down, quick-loading, text-only version of Facebook — accessible only as long as you were using a participating mobile operator.

It was a big deal, much bigger than most people realized at the time. The fast, bare-bones version of Facebook made it more usable for people living in the poorly connected locations it rolled out in — countries like India, Uganda, and Bolivia. More importantly, 0.Facebook could be accessed for free in those countries, without any associated data costs, thanks to deals Facebook made with carriers. The internet? That would cost you —but 0.Facebook was free of charge.