Mike Isaac

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Facebook Partners With Carriers to Bring Cheaper Messaging Abroad

Facebook-MessengerLargeContinuing its steady trudge into mobile messaging, Facebook announced on Monday a multi-carrier partnership that will allow users in some countries to send Facebook messages with little or no impact on their cellular data plans.

The partnership, which includes participation from more than 18 carriers across 14 countries, offers free or discounted cellular data access to people using Facebook’s Messenger application for iOS, Android and Facebook on feature phones.

The story here is the locations Facebook has targeted in its initiative. Participating carriers span multiple continents — including Europe, Asia, the Middle East and South America — key to Facebook’s continued growth as it reaches the higher end of U.S. population penetration. Even those who aren’t sure they want to hop on the Facebook train can take advantage of the deal, thanks to Facebook’s “no account, no problem” initiative, which allows people who don’t have a Facebook account to still use Facebook Messenger.

That’s effective for a few reasons. First, the countries this deal targets aren’t necessarily beholden to Facebook in the first place; remember, there are a number of other social networks in the world, and Facebook isn’t the top dog in every country. Give folks more incentive to use Facebook by making it cheaper to do so, and perhaps you’ll convert new users to the network.

Second, and perhaps more important, data plans around the world are far from equal. While we in the U.S. may enjoy our all-you-can-eat bandwidth buffets, much of the world still face limited choice in data plans, and are often forced to pay high prices for relatively small data caps.

Keep in mind that it’s a promotion, not a permanent thing, so the deal will last for anywhere from three months to somewhat longer, depending on the carrier.

But three months may be long enough to coax a skeptical user into becoming a full-on Facebook convert. Especially if Facebook can find a way to expand its free voice-calling beyond just U.S. and Canadian users, and into the hands of the rest of the world.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik