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In a lengthy interview with Wired's Steven Levy, Mark Zuckerberg responds to the criticism he's received for Internet.org, his global campaign to connect the world. After the announcement two weeks ago, Zuck came under heavy fire. Many believed the billionaire CEO would use this campaign as a way to boost Facebook users. "I think we can get to a model where a lot of those things are free for people who can’t afford them," Zuck tells Levy. "I'm talking about things like messages, Wikipedia, search engines, social networks, weather access, commodities prices. I call this the dial tone for the Internet."
An excerpt from the interview appears below.
Zuckerberg: The story of the next century is the transition from an industrial, resource-based economy, to a knowledge economy. An industrial economy is zero sum. If you own an oil field, I cannot go in that same oil field. But knowledge works differently. If you know something, then you can share that — and then the whole world gets richer. But until that happens, there’s a big disparity in wealth. The richest 500 million have way more money than the next 6 billion combined. You solve that by getting everyone online, and into the knowledge economy — by building out the global Internet.
WIRED: But we have a connected knowledge economy here in the United States, and the income disparity has never been worse. We also seem more polarized.
Zuckerberg: A transition naturally has to take place. I taught at a local middle school this year, and a lot of students there didn’t have access to the Internet at home. So there’s a lot of work we need to do in the U.S. It won’t be like, “Snap your fingers, everyone has the Internet, and now the world is fixed.” The Industrial Revolution didn’t happen in a decade, either. You need a foundation so that the change can happen.
WIRED: Your critics are saying that Internet.org is a self-interested means for Facebook to build its user base.
Zuckerberg: Of course, we want to help connect more people, so theoretically we do benefit from this. But that criticism is kind of crazy. The billion people who are already on Facebook have way, way more money than the next 6 billion people combined. If we wanted to focus on just making money, the right strategy for us would be to focus solely on the developed countries and the people already on Facebook, increasing their engagement rather than having these other folks join. Our service is free, and there aren’t developed ad markets in a lot of these countries. So for a very long time this may not be profitable for us. But I’m willing to make that investment because I think it’s really good for the world.