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Internet

Facebook renames oft-criticized free website Internet.org

Website backed by the social networking giant to expand Internet access globally is renamed Free Basics.

So what's in a name?

Apparently a lot to Facebook, which on Thursday renamed its controversial Internet.org website and app to Free Basics. The social network said the renaming was done to make a clearer distinction between the broader Internet.org initiative and the website that provides free basic Internet services to underserved parts of the world.

The renaming coincides with Facebook's announcement that the revised Internet.org platform is up and running.

"The platform creates an opportunity for developers to offer additional services that integrate with Free Basics, providing users with more choice and control over their online experience," the company said.

Facebook-backed Internet.org has changed the name of its website and app to Free Basics, which provides free access to Web services to people across Africa, Asia and Latin America. Internet.org

The goal of the year-old platform, which is also backed by Nokia, Samsung and other major tech companies, is to provide Internet access to people around the world who've never had it. In the past year, Internet.org has gone online to more than a billion people in 19 countries. Menlo Park, California-based Facebook has not said exactly how many people have joined.

Internet.org is helping to provide free health, education, and economic information, Facebook said. But the initiative came under fire in April, when several India-based web publishers withdrew from Internet.org, claiming the social network chose which services would be offered through its initiative and giving preferential treatment to certain sites and platforms. The controversy spread worldwide.

In an attempt to address concerns that Internet.org was actually preventing a free and open Internet, Facebook said in May that it had expanded its developer portal to any company or website that wanted to be part of Internet.org. The site now has more than 60 services, the company said Thursday.

Some critics have also accused Facebook of forcing companies to offer their services for free -- an argument Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg disputed. He said the platform's ultimate goal is to get the two-thirds of the world that's never been online on the Internet.