Facebook’s Express Wi-Fi offers internet service to developing countries

Facebook is dipping its toes into the ISP business with Express Wi-Fi. This app allows users in developing countries to buy data packs that can be used at hotspots. The app is currently live in five developing countries. The hot spots themselves are managed by local business owners, and Facebook hopes it can provide an alternative to the slow data plans offered by cell carriers.

Express Wi-Fi isn’t completely new, but Facebook’s Play Store App offers several key improvements over the first version. For starters, it’s available on the Play Store, which makes it a lot easier to find, plus it no longer requires users to reconfigure their phones. The Play Store app also offers a way for users to find various hot spots nearby.

“Facebook is releasing the Express Wi-Fi app in the Google Play store to give people another simple and secure way to access fast, affordable internet through their local Express Wi-Fi hotspots,” a Facebook representative told Tech Crunch.

Facebook has tried something like this in the past with Free Basics, but that option was widely derided, as it only offered a handful of Facebook-approved services, rather than true internet access.

The app marks a major push to expand Facebook’s market into the developing world, where lack of quality internet can make social media sites difficult, if not impossible, to use. The move comes at a time when Facebook is nearly omnipresent in developed nations, though there are signs that it may be declining. In Q4, Facebook saw its U.S. and Canadian userbase decline by 700,000. This was, in part, due to Newsfeed changes, which no longer emphasized viral videos as much.

In order to sustain itself, the company needs to find new members and the developed world may be nearly tapped out. This is partially the reason Facebook has embarked on a number of initiatives meant to provide developing countries with affordable access to the internet. In addition to Express Wi-Fi, it is working to develop solar drones, which can provide internet service to people in remote areas.

Though the company may have humanitarian aims in mind with these endeavors, it is also an investment in Facebook’s future. After all, the first step towards getting people on Facebook is getting them online.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Write music with your voice, make homemade cheese

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Home Theater

The best TVs you can buy right now, from budget to big screen

Looking for a new television? In an oversaturated market, buying power is at an all-time high, but you'll need to cut through the rough to find a diamond. We're here to help with our picks for the best TVs of 2019.
Computing

Netgear’s new Nighthawk Pro Gaming router keeps you connected at a nice price

Netgear's latest router expands its Nighthawk range with a $200 entry. It's still fast and helps reduce lag in gaming, but it does it at the lowest price of a Nighthawk Pro Gaming router yet.
Music

Apple Music vs. Spotify: Which service is the streaming king?

Apple Music is giving Spotify a run for its money, but which service is best for you? In our Apple Music vs. Spotify showdown, we compare and contrast all we know about the two streaming music services.
Web

Switch up your Reddit routine with these interesting, inspiring, and zany subs

So you've just joined the wonderful world of Reddit and want to explore it. But with so many subreddits to choose from, scouring the "front page of the internet" can be confusing. Here are some of the best subreddits to get you started.
Photography

Selfie snapper attacked by jaguar during foolhardy photo attempt

Selfies with animals don't always work out too well, as a woman at a zoo in Arizona found out recently. Passing a safety barrier to get closer to a jaguar, the animal responded angrily by digging its claws into her flesh.
Social Media

Twitter wants you to help shape the future design of its app

Twitter is launching an app for testing new design features and it wants you to get involved. Those accepted into the program will have the chance to try out different conversation designs aimed at improving the user experience.
Emerging Tech

Professional drone racing is flying onto Twitter this summer

Professional drone racing is coming to Twitter for the first time this summer. Organizers hope the streaming deal with the social media platform will help the growing sport to further broaden its audience.
Computing

Make a GIF of your favorite YouTube video with these great tools

Making a GIF from a YouTube video is easier today than ever, but choosing the right tool for the job isn't always so simple. In this guide, we'll teach you how to make a GIF from a YouTube video with our two favorite online tools.
Social Media

Twitter takes a cue from Instagram and Snapchat with new quick-swipe camera

Twitter is giving the "what's happening" treatment to photos and video by allowing users to access the in-app camera fast enough to catch and share the moment. The new Twitter camera is now accessible with a swipe.
Social Media

Yep, it’s not just you. Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp are down for many

Facebook's family of apps has been suffering issues for much of the day. Instagram, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Facebook itself have been out of action for users around the world, with the company scrambling to sort it out.
Social Media

Facebook may soon let you watch live TV with friends in Watch Party

Facebook Watch Party is designed to allow friends to watch together, even when they can't be in the same physical space. Now, that feature could be expanding to include live TV. Facebook announced a test of the feature, starting with live…
Social Media

Federal investigation digs into Facebook’s data-sharing deals

Facebook confirmed it is cooperating with a federal criminal investigation. According to a report, the company is under investigation for sharing user data with smartphone and tablet companies.
Social Media

Facebook explains its worst outage as 3 million users head to Telegram

Facebook, if you didn't already know it, suffered a bit of an issue on Wednesday, March 13. An issue that took down not only its social networking site, but also Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger. On Thursday it offered an explanation.