Facebook introduces Discover: Exploring new ways to support connectivity

By Yoav Zeevi
May 5, 2020

Today, Facebook Connectivity and our partners at Bitel, Claro, Entel, and Movistar are launching a trial of Discover — a new product that builds on our Free Basics initiative — in Peru. As we’ve continued our work on Free Basics, we’ve listened to feedback and recommendations from civil society groups and other stakeholders, including organizations likethe World Wide Web Foundation. We developed Discover to address and incorporate those recommendations into a new product that supports connectivity.

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Discover is a mobile web and Android app that can be used to browse any website using a daily balance of free data from participating mobile operators. In order to offer a sustainable program with our mobile operator partners, Discover supports only low-bandwidth traffic when using free data. Video, audio, and certain other types of data-intensive traffic are not supported when using free data. All websites are treated equally.

Facebook Connectivity continues to work with partners on a wide range of initiatives aimed at addressing key barriers to connectivity. Overcoming these challenges — including affordability, relevance, and lack of infrastructure — requires a multifaceted approach of different business solutions, partnerships, and long-term technology initiatives. Discover is one piece of our much broader connectivity efforts.

With Discover, we’re exploring ways to help people stay on the internet more consistently. Many internet users around the world remain underconnected, regularly dropping off the internet for some period of time when they exhaust their data balance. Discover is designed to help bridge these gaps and keep people connected until they can purchase data again. We’ll also be assessing how Discover can help people extend use of their regular data balance and support internet adoption.

During the coronavirus public health crisis, we believe it is particularly important to explore ways to help people stay connected and to increase access to health information and other resources on the internet. As part of our ongoing work to connect people to accurate health information, coronavirus health resources will be highlighted on the Discover homepage.

Evolving our Free Basics initiative

Discover builds on our work with Free Basics, which is available in more than 55 countries. Through partnerships with mobile operators, Free Basics enables people to access basic services such as health information, job sites, communication tools, education resources, and local government information without data charges. Free Basics is open to any developer who submits a service that meets the program’s technical criteria.

In response to feedback, we’ve developed Discover to allow people to browse all websites using a daily balance of free data from participating mobile operators. Our work on Discover has been informed by our broader efforts — including our participation in the Contract for the Web — to expand connectivity and access to the open web while continuing to protect privacy. Reflecting feedback we’ve received, Discover treats all websites equally, including Facebook. We have also maintained strong privacy protections and provided transparency in the product about how these protections work. In our early testing, we will assess Discover’s impact and continue to discuss next steps with our partners and other stakeholders. As we test Discover, the existing model of Free Basics continues to help connect people around the world.

How Discover works

Discover provides low-bandwidth browsing, enabling people to browse text on any website using free daily data. It is available via both the mobile web and an Android app. Each day, people will get a balance of free data from their participating mobile operator. People will be notified when free data is available and can always choose to view other content on the internet, such as videos, by using data purchased from their mobile operator.

To enable people to browse the internet using free data, we route web traffic through the Discover proxy and temporarily decrypt it to remove video, audio, and other high-bandwidth content that is not supported. To support security, we encrypt information between our servers and any device that supports HTTPS where possible — even if the service being accessed runs only over HTTP. For websites that support HTTPS, a second certificate is used for traffic encrypted between our servers and the developers’. Read more about how we developed Discover.

The product does not store people’s browsing history in connection with them, and personal browsing activity is not used for other purposes, such as helping Facebook target ads or suggest new friends. You do not need to have a Facebook account to use Discover, which has a standalone set of terms and privacy policy. An explanation of the product’s design and privacy protections is displayed prominently before consumers can begin using Discover.

As with the existing Free Basics program, mobile operators are not paid for providing free data for Discover. Following the launch of Discover in Peru, we’re planning to roll out additional Discover trials with partner operators in a number of other countries (where we have been in the process of beta-testing product features), including Thailand, the Philippines, and Iraq. We anticipate Discover will be live in these additional countries in the coming weeks, and we’ll explore additional trials where partner operators want to participate.

People in Peru can access Discover by visiting on any mobile web browser on any type of mobile device, including basic feature phones, as well as by downloading the Discover app in the Google Play Store (if they have a SIM from a participating operator). To learn more about Facebook Connectivity’s mission and our various connectivity projects around the world, visit For more information about Discover, visit the help page.

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