It was only last month when Facebook partnered with Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera, Qualcomm, and Samsung and came out with Internet.org, an initiative geared towards providing people with no connectivity affordable mobile access to the Web. This week, in an effort to outline the partnership’s intent of prioritizing efficiency when it comes to providing Internet connectivity to the world, Facebook, Qualcomm, and Ericsson co-authored and released a white paper through the Internet.org website.
In the 70-page document, both Qualcomm and Ericsson were brief in outlining their respective contributions to the project. Qualcomm explained how it plans to meet the challenge of expanding the current wireless capacity by a thousand times through the many innovations the company is currently working on. Meanwhile, Ericsson cited and dissected a comprehensive survey done on mobile device users, proving what we already know: We want a fast Internet connection that’s available on our smartphones, all the time, anywhere we go.
The majority of the paper, however, discussed at length how Facebook designed and created technologies that allowed billions of users to communicate with one another and how it applied to the company’s progress in mobile app development. Don’t want to read the 70 pages? Then here’s what you need to know about the social network’s plans for world domination:
1. In preparation for a constant increase in usership, Facebook has built efficiency-increasing tools to make it easier for programmers to write and execute code that will make the site run smoothly. Facebook was initially coded using PHP because it was easy to learn and even quicker to implement. However, in order for Facebook to keep using PHP to cater to a billion-big audience, the company would need a whole lot of servers. To fix this issue, Facebook built HipHop for PHP, a tool that converted easy PHP code into C++, a programming language that’s more efficient to use for massive-scale projects and requires fewer servers to run. A little over a year later, the company came out with the HipHop Virtual Machine, a tool that converted PHP into native machine code, thereby increasing server performance by 500 percent. Both tools are available on open source so others may use them as well.
2. While the company is indeed working on its efficiency, Facebook’s Open Compute Project (OCP) allows them to do so while also going green through the machines they use. The project, which has been active for over three years, is helping the company build their own better and more efficient data centers that run on natural air cooling, a no-frills hardware design, and better power management, all at a lower data delivery cost. There are at least five OCP projects mentioned in the paper, all of which are designed and are currently being worked on so that operators of data centers would be able to build systems that match their workload and be able to optimize operations.
3. When it comes to mobile app development (specifically for Android), Facebook faces a myriad of obstacles. Mobile phones run on different versions of the operating systems and come in various models, each with their own specifications. Facebook users are all over the world and access content at different times, from different locations, using different languages. And although there are already a number of countries that provide Internet connectivity through mobile phones, every region has a different quality or type. Some get charged a flat rate for unlimited connection, while most people pay for their service by-the-minute. All these factors make Internet.org’s main mission of globalizing Internet connectivity a little bit harder to accomplish.
5. Facebook wants to spend less time consuming data. By optimizing the resolution and formats of photos uploaded by users on a regular basis, they not only save themselves time delivering your data but also lessen the money and time you spend waiting for your pages to load. They also adopted the use of WebP – a more efficient image format developed by Google that downloads a lot faster, thereby conserving valuable bandwidth – to replace both JPGs and PNGs. Currently, most images on Facebook’s Android app have already been converted to WebP, and the transition is expected to roll out on other platforms soon. “When the images are converted to WebP, we will have saved over 20 percent of total network traffic, without loss of quality,” Facebook wrote in the paper. Additionally, they’ve also opted for “offloading large data transactions to non-cellular connections (such as Wi-Fi) and locally caching data on devices in advance.”
6. Facebook wants to keep improving “Facebook For Every Phone,” a product used by more than 100 million users monthly who access the social network using an inexpensive phone and affordable data plan. The product runs on low bandwidth and caters to people who can’t afford smartphones. The paper went into full detail on Facebook For Every Phone’s specifications, which they structured in the hopes of delivering “more efficient mobile experiences for more people in developing countries”.
“Making affordable Internet access a reality for the next 5 billion people depends on the industry achieving a dramatic improvement in the overall efficiency of delivering data,” the paper concluded. The powers behind the Internet.org program are confident that their continuous hard work and unwavering determination in developing solutions and tools will be enough to connect the planet to the Web – they predict that given the consistently high price of maintaining mobile Internet connectivity, the efficiency and cost-effectiveness data delivery can be multiplied a hundred fold in the next five to 10 years.
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