Is the future of the Internet in the stars? Facebook thinks so.(Read article summary)
The Connectivity Lab will help usher in a new era for the Internet, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg said today.
Forget ordinary old social networks. In a blog post on Thursday, Facebook CEO¬†Mark Zuckerberg¬†says the next step for Facebook is the Connectivity Lab, a project devoted to creating a fleet of satellites and drones capable of "deliver[ing] the internet to everyone."¬†
Referencing Internet.org, a partnership between Facebook and six mobile phone operators, Mr. Zuckerberg says that in the past year, the organization has helped bring three million residents of¬†Philippines and Paraguay online. The next step will be to go extraterrestrial, with the help of a team of engineers culled from¬†NASA‚Äôs Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NASA‚Äôs Ames Research Center, the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, and Ascenta ‚Äď a British company that builds so-called high-altitude long-endurance aircraft.
At this stage, Facebook isn't wading too deeply into the specifics. But a separate post at Internet.org laid out a vision of an Internet powered by high-flying chunks of cutting-edge technology.¬†
"For suburban areas in limited geographical regions, we‚Äôve been working on solar-powered high altitude, long endurance aircraft that can stay aloft for months, be quickly deployed and deliver reliable internet connections," the Internet.org announcement¬†says. "For lower density areas, low-Earth orbit and geosynchronous satellites can beam internet access to the ground."¬†
Zuckerberg, of course, has trussed up this plan in the trappings of¬†magnanimousness, stressing the number of people who might finally find their way online. But as Carly Smith notes over at the Escapist, we shouldn't confuse his words with pure altruism.¬†
"More people online means greater potential to increase the number of Facebook users," Ms. Smith¬†points out. "This project also stands to compete with Google's Project Loon, which uses solar-powered balloons to deliver internet access worldwide. So far, 30 balloons have been launched in New Zealand."¬†
[Editor's note: The original headline for this story implied that NASA was involved in this project. In fact, Facebook hired former NASA engineers.]