Category Archives: Lifestyle, Society, Culture & Politics

SIMPLE TRICK TO WRITE MULTIPLICATION TABLES OF ANY 2 NUMBERS

There’s always a solution to all your problems and it’s no different with Math.

As kids or as adults, we do find calculating multiplication tables a little difficult, especially when the numbers are between 10 – 99.

Ofcourse, we always have a calculator or our mobile phones to help us with such calculations. But what when we don’t have access to those or are prohibited to use scientific instruments, for instance during competitive exams?

With this trick, you won’t have to worry further. This easy calculation will help you out. All you need is a pen and paper and tables between 2-9. Well that can be managed, I suppose!

So check this 36 seconds video and share it with people you care, especially children, since they need it the most! 😀

Do try it out yourself.

Happy Calculating!

Catch Pokémon For A Living Now!

“Wanted PokĂ©mon trainer dexterous at finding and catching PokĂ©mons.” That’s a listing on Babajob.com, seeking a PokĂ©mon Catcher!

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The Bengaluru-based job portal has created a new category for Pokémon Catcher. It allows people to hire others to play #PokémonGo, the vastly popular augmented reality-based game, in their stead.

The company says that it expects this to become a trend soon. The job has currently been posted by Ash Ketchum. PokĂ©mon fans will know that this is the lead character in the original anime series. According to Babajob, the company’s co-founder and COO, Vir Kashyap, is going to hire someone to play in his place.

In an email interaction with Digit, Kashyap explained that he and CEO, Sean Blagsvedt, started a friendly competition amongst themselves in the game. Kashyap however injured himself midway, rendering him unable to play. He plans to hire someone to play in his place, and the person will be paid Rs. 1,999 for reaching a particular level in the game.

The job posting states that the remuneration can go up to Rs, 25,000 per month. A sum that is equivalent to starting salaries for freshers in many specialised fields.

“One should be alert and swift. Also, the user should have enough knowledge about the PokĂ©mon world to become a successful PokĂ©mon Catcher,” said Kashyap, on being asked what the criteria for employment will be.

The opening is currently in Bengaluru, but the company said it has received lots of applications from across the country. The one selected will currently be going around Bengaluru, collecting Pokémon, and visiting other startup offices, which may appear as Pokéstops in the game.

It was only a matter of time before #PokemonGo opened up opportunities for others to earn money off of it. Interestingly, the game isn’t even officially available in India yet, although, the country is generating a hefty load off the traffic on Niantic’s servers. The website shows that many applicants have already applied for the job, and Babajob is currently reviewing the applications to hire a PokĂ©mon Catcher for Kashyap.


I am a Freelance Designer.  Click Here to check my work 🙂

The Secrets of Victoria’s Secret you probably didn’t know!

This cult American lingerie brand is such a must have for every second woman around the globe, isn’t it? Supermodel brand ambassadors or ‘angels’ right from Heidi Klum to Adriana Lima, Miranda Kerr and Helena Christensen have become global faces!

But do you know where Victoria’s Secret manufactures its ‘Pink’ lingerie brand?

It’s manufactured at ‘Intimate Fashions Factory’ which is located at a small village in Kanchipuram district just 30 kms from Chennai in Tamil Nadu! Yes, India!

The women who work at the Intimate Fashions Factory, which produces bras for Victoria’s Secret, La Senza and others, come mostly from poor rural areas in India.

There are close to 2,500 employees (mostly women) working at Intimate Fashions. The girls make around Rs. 8000 a month which is twice as much as the majority of men in their villages who make just about Rs. 120 a day working on farms.

These young women are breadwinners! Not only that, there a positive social changes taking place due to these jobs. Girls, who were married off straight out of school are now delaying their marriages by three or four years.

On Intimate Fashion’s massive factory floor, hundreds of women in bright pink aprons and headscarves sit in long lines bent over their machines, busily stitching red satin ribbons and lilac lace straps as Tamil pop music blares out from speakers.

The conditions at Intimate Fashions is a major improvement for Victoria’s Secret following Bloomberg’s revelations that the company reportedly used cotton that had been picked by teenage girls under grueling conditions in Burkina Faso, West Africa.

Well it doesn’t end here. Victoria has another secret! Our homegrown Alok Industries along with its Sri Lankan partner, MAS Intimates, source close to 300 tonnes of organic, free-trade Burkinabe cotton for Victoria’s Secret. Not just that! This cotton gets shipped to India and Alok Industries spins 200 tonnes of yarn which is then made into fabric and sent to MAS Intimates factories for their other garments before it hits high-street fashion shelves from New York and Paris to London and Tokyo. Their involvement with Alok Industries has been strong since 2007!

After all this, Victoria’s Secret has just one stand-alone store in the whole of India. Delhi! So unfair!

Shhh…

Why does “Will Not” not become “Willn’t”?

Most contractions in English are pretty straightforward. The pattern of contraction for verbs and the negative adverb ‘not is very basic in majority instances. You first write the contraction, then the n of not, then an apostrophe, followed by the t of not. This is true for all of the following examples:

is not, isn’t;
are not, aren’t;
was not, wasn’t;
were not, weren’t;
has not, hasn’t;
have not, haven’t;
had not, hadn’t;
cannot, can’t;
could not, couldn’t;
do not, don’t;
does not, doesn’t;
did not, didn’t;
may not, mayn’t;
might not, mightn’t;
should not, shouldn’t;
would not, wouldn’t;
must not, mustn’t;
ought not, oughtn’t;
dare not, daren’t;

need not, needn’t.

There are only three of the most frequently used verb + negative adverb examples that don’t work like this: shan’t, ain’t and won’t. Let’s look at how they differ from the majority of examples and then try to understand why.

Shan’t is the contraction of shall not, ain’t is a contraction of am not and won’t is defined as the contraction of will not. Look at what happens when we add the negative adverb to each one:

shall + not (take away ll; take away o) —> shan’t

Now, you may wonder why aren’t there two apostrophes, since two letters are removed in one place and one in another place? Why isn’t it sha’n’t? The fact is that at one time as recently as the 20th Century, it was spelled as sha’n’t! Perhaps people who didn’t understand the role of the apostrophe “misspelled” it or brought it into line by copying the pattern of the majority of verb/negative adverb contractions.

In a similar way, am not was also spelled as amn’t instead of ain’t which later came into use.

Ain’t is a contraction for am not, is not, are not, has not, and have not in the common English language vernacular. In some dialects ain’t is also used as a contraction of do not, does not, and did not. The development of ain’t for the various forms of to be not, to have not, and to do not occurred independently, at different times. The usage of ain’t for the forms of to be not was established by the mid-18th century, and for the forms of to have not by the early 19th century.

The usage of ain’t is a perennial subject of controversy in English. Ain’t is commonly used by many speakers in oral or informal settings, especially in certain regions and dialects. Its usage is often highly stigmatized, and it may be used as a marker of socio-economic or regional status or education level. Its use is generally considered non-standard by dictionaries and style guides except when used for rhetorical effect, and it is rarely found in formal written works.

Amn’t as a contraction of am not is known from 1618.  As the “mn” combination of two nasal consonants is disfavoured by many English speakers, the “m” of amn’t began to be elided, reflected in writing with the new form an’t. Aren’t as a contraction for are not first appeared in 1675. In non-rhotic dialects, aren’t lost its “r” sound, and began to be pronounced as an’t. An’t (sometimes a’n’t) arose from am not and are not almost simultaneously.

I am doing good, am I not? 
–>I am doing good, amn’t I? (Earlier Usage)
–>I am doing good, ain’t I? (Present day usage)

What about won’t?

will + not (take away ll; take away o) —> win’t rather than won’t

The fact is that the contraction won’t was created when an older form of will not was in use. At different times and places “will” came out as wulle, wole, wool, welle, wel, wile, wyll, and even ull, and ool. From at least the 16th century, the preferred form was wonnot from “woll not,” with occasional departures later to winnot, wunnot, or the expected willn’t. Finally after years of change by our linguistic ancestors, “will” won the battle of the “woles/wulles/ools,” but for the negative contraction, “wonnot” simply won out, and contracted further to the “won’t” we use today. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, won’t was formed from woll not, an earlier form of will not. Knowing this, we can now set up our diagram of the formation of the contraction like this:

woll + not (take away ll; take away o) —> won’t

And we can see that it is formed identically to shan’t. So did won’t at one time have a double apostrophe as well? Yes: at one time, the correct spelling (or a correct spelling) was wo’n’t!

The verb “will” has been spelled all sorts of ways since first showing up as wyllan around 1,000 in Aelfric’sGrammar, an Old English introduction to Latin grammar. The Oxford English Dictionary has many Middle English examples of the wole or wol spelling dating back to the 1200s.

Now that you know the history, it should be easier to connect 🙂 

 

 

Interesting Facts About Evolution!

    1. Ultimately every living thing can trace its ancestry to a bacterium that lived billions of years ago.
    2. Bears, seals, and dogs are closely related carnivores but are on a different branch of the evolutionary tree than cats and hyenas.
    3. Some snakes have hipbones, which shows they once had four legs like lizards, their close cousins.
    4. Early whales had large back legs.
    5. Inside some whales and dolphins are small bones that show they once had back legs and that their ancestors walked on land. These occasionally reappear as tiny rear flippers.
    6. Birds evolved from dinosaurs and both are descended from reptiles. The closest living reptilian relation of a bird is the crocodile.
    7. Evolution rarely follows a straight line from species to species. Instead, it is more like a tree with many branches. Some branches lead to new branches, while others become dead ends.
    8. An elephant’s trunk is an amazing example of evolutionary development. It is a combined nose and upper lip that lengthened as the elephant’s ancestors became taller and their tusks grew bigger. With its heavy head, it needed an easy way to reach the ground.
    9. Physically, the human body seems to have changed very little in the last 50,000 years. However improvements in diets, increased lifespan, and developments in biotechnology may start to speed up the evolutionary process.
    10. All humans develop a tail in the womb that eventually dissolves.
    11. The penises of human ancestors were covered in hard spines. Theorists believe these spines possibly helped a man’s sperm overtake that of his competitors. As humans became more monogamous, the spines became obsolete.
    12. Charles Darwin did not come up with his theory of evolution while at the Galapagos Islands. His ideas came later, after his return from the voyage.
    13. Darwin (1809–1882) did not come up with the phrase “survival of the fittest” to summarize his theory. Rather, the philosopher Herbert Spencer (1820–1903) coined the phrase.
    14. Darwin did not argue that humans came from monkeys. Rather he wrote only thatmonkeys, apes, and humans have a common ancestor.
    15. Approximately 550 million years ago, humans had a common ancestor with a lancelet, a rod-like sea animal.
    16. Humans share about 31% of their genes with yeast, a single living cell that replicates every 90 minutes. They share about 50% of their genes with a banana.l
    17. A pair of parents would have to have 1,000,000,000,000,000 (a quadrillion) babies before they possibly might have a child with the same genes as any of their other children. This genetic variation between individuals is the key to how species have evolved.
    18. A descended larynx, which allows humans to speak, evolved roughly 350,000 year ago. Humans also possess a descended hyoid one, which allows humans to articulate words. In contrast, the larynx in a chimp, for example, sits higher in the throat than in a human.
    19. A hobbit-like species of human lived about 18,000 years ago. About the size of a 3-year-old, they lived with pygmy elephants and 10-foot-long lizards.
    20. The changes in a human pelvis that allow humans to walk upright also made bearing children unusually more dangerous than the rest of the animal kingdom. Additionally, the lumbar curve in the lower back, which helps humans maintain balance, is more vulnerable to pain and injury.
    21. A square inch of human skin on average has as much or more hair-producing follicles as other primates. The difference is that human hair is thinner, shorter, and lighter.
    22. Researchers believe that goose bumps are a remnant of thick hair that covered early humans.
    23. While other primates have opposable thumbs, humans are unique because they can bring their thumbs across the hand to their ring and little fingers. Humans can also flex the ring and little fingers toward the base of the thumb. This allows humans to have a powerful grip and dexterity to hold and use tools.
    24. The development of human clothes has influenced the evolution of other species. For example, unlike all other kinds of louse, the body louse clings to clothing not to hair.
    25. Evolutionary biologists hypothesize that species that cooperate rather than compete value sameness, which has led to right-hand dominance. Lefties constitute just 10% of the normal population; yet they make up 50% of elite athletes.
    26. Researchers suggest that the discovery of fire influenced human evolution. Fire allowed humans to cook their food, which made food easier to chew and digest—which, in turn, contributed to the reduction of human tooth and gut size.
    27. While most animals reproduce until they die, humans have evolved to survive long after the ability to reproduce. Scientists believe this has helped ensure the success of a woman’s family.
    28. The theory of evolution has three basic parts: 1) it is possible for an organism’s DNA to change or mutate; 2) the change is harmful, beneficial, or neutral; and 3) after a long period of time, the mutations cause new species to form.
    29. Mutations fuel evolution by providing new genes in the gene pool of a species. Many factors cause DNA mutation, including X-rays, cosmic rays, nuclear radiation, and random chemical reactions in a cell.
    30. In 1861, the fossil of a primitive bird named Archaeopteryx (“first bird”) was found in Germany. It has impressions of feathers and a long, bony tail. Scientist believe this fossil links birds and reptiles and was the first solid evidence to support Darwin’s theory of evolution.
    31. In the 1870s, Ernst Haeckel, a German biologist and naturalist, developed the idea of “evolution as progress,” which assumes that all nature is moving toward a final goal: human beings.
    32. The discovery of DNA (strands of hereditary material) provides the strongest proof for biological evolution. By comparing genomes of different living things and observing the changes in the coding of genes, scientists can figure out how closely different species are related to each other and identify how long ago a common ancestor lived.
    33. Modern evolution theory recognizes that evolution does not always mean progress. If the environment changes, more advanced animals can die out while less advanced relatives survive.
    34. Darwin was not the first to propose a theory of evolution. His real achievement was that he was able to present a more coherent argument for evolution backed up by a mass of accurate information.
    35. In revolutionary France, a theory of evolution (by Jean Baptiste Lamarck) was used to challenge the authority of the church and the king. Fearful of similar uprisings, England made evolution a scandalous idea.
    36. Scientists believe that the nictitating membrane (the small pink tissue in the corner of a human eye) is a remnant of a third eyelid, similar to the semitransparent eyelid used by birds, reptiles, fish, and other mammals. It is used to protect the eye or moisten it.
    37. Eighty-five percent of the population cannot wiggle its ears or control the Auricularis muscles that surround the outer ear. Scientists believe this muscle allowed human beings’ primate ancestors to move their ears in different directions to pinpoint the locations of sounds. They lost the need to move their ears when they started to live in groups.
    38. Scientists believe that wisdom teeth and the appendix are leftover “equipment” from when humans ate a primarily leaf-based diet. As the human diet changed, these appendices have become essentially useless.
    39. The term “Junk DNA” refers to regions of DNA that are noncoding—or, in other words, they do not code for a protein. Scientists note that evolution is messy, incomplete, and inefficient and, consequently, it results in DNA sequences with varying degrees of function or no function at all. In the human genome, almost all (98%) of DNA is noncoding.
    40. Hiccups may date back to humans’ watery ancestors. Wiring in the brain that pushes water over fish gills and makes amphibians gulp air has been imperfectly rewired in mammals. It can make the diaphragm go into spasms, which causes hiccups.
    41. Because of evolution, many animals lay hundreds of eggs each year to ensure that even a few reach adulthood. If all the froglets survived, the world would be knee-deep in frogs within 10 years.
    42. The platypus is the earliest mammal offshoot from the reptiles. It lays eggs but produces milk like other mammals. It also has evolved the ability to produce venom independently of its reptile ancestors.
    43. The plantaris muscle in the foot is used by animals to grip and manipulate objects with their feet. For example, apes seem to be able to use their feet as well as their hands. In humans, however, this muscle is so underdeveloped that doctors often remove it when they need tissue for reconstructing other parts of the body. About 9% of humans are now born without it.
    44. Humans have very little hair compared to other primates. Researchers believe humans have evolved this feature because 1) it made it easier to forage for food in shallow water, 2) it helped humans lose heat faster on the hot savannas, and 3) it helped reduce the number of parasites on the body.
    45. Human evolution has taken 5 million years. Modern man, or homo sapiens (“wise man”), emerged 250,000 years ago. Until 25,000 years ago, humans lived alongside the Neanderthals, who were stronger and more stocky. Scientists are unsure what happened to the Neanderthals.
    46. The evolution of the mammalian ear can be clearly tracked through fish, amphibian, and reptile fossils. Mammals have three small bones in the inner ear that began as the jawbones of fish. Over time, they changed form and function, shrank, and moved away from the jaw. This allowed mammals to develop a superior sense of hearing.
    47. Madagascar split from Africa 165 million years ago, which was before Africa’s large mammals, such as elephants and giraffes, evolved. Hence, elephants and giraffes do not live on Madagascar. Hippos are thought to be the only large mammals to have swum to Madagascar.
    48. Some scientists believe that if humans colonize other planets, colonizers would face new environment conditions, such as low gravity and oxygen. Over centuries, the colonizers and the plants and animals they took with them would evolve to look and behave differently.
    49. A panda’s thumb is actually an enlarged wrist bone that has evolved to allow the panda to hold onto its favorite food: bamboo.
    50. Birds haven’t had teeth for 70 million years, but researchers have found them in the embryos of mutant chickens. Researchers believe that chickens lost their teeth to grow beaks—although, they still have the potential to make teeth.
    51. Most people had brown eyes until about 10,000 years ago when a single genetic mutation from the Black Sea switched the eyes from brown to blue. Approximately 8% of the world’s population now has blue eyes.
    52. Researchers are unsure if humans are still evolving or if they have reached their evolutionary peak.
    53. A new species is achieved when two populations of the same living thing become so different that they can no longer breed with each other.
    54. Evolutionary biologists note that a symmetrical face is more attractive around the world because symmetry signals good genes for reproductive health.
    55. According to evolutionary biologists, women are more attracted to men with a large jaw and prominent brow, which are shaped by high levels of testosterone. Men are attracted to women with smaller chins and less prominent brows, which signal higher estrogen levels.
    56. One study found that men who were hungry preferred women with higher body weights. Researchers suspect this happens because of an evolutionary response to resource scarcity; in other words, a heavier woman advertises access to more resources, such as food.
    57. Historically, men prefer women with an hourglass figure. Researchers believe this is a product of evolution because the waist-hip ratio (WHR) serves as an indicator of reproductive health.
    58. Scientific studies have shown that blushing helps ease hostile responses by communicating that a person is ashamed or apologetic. Studies show that blushing elicits sympathy, which helps keep the subject alive. Humans are the only animals capable of blushing.
    59. Lip twitching when angry is an evolutionary leftover. It is the first part of baring teeth at an intruder and can also be seen in wolves, bears, and chimpanzees.
    60. Many people feel the urge to lift their feet or climb to a more elevated position when scared or feeling anxious. Evolutionary biologists claim this is a remnant instinct from when early ground-dwelling mammals would climb trees when threatened.
    61. Evidence for evolution is continually being gathered and tested; consequently, scientists argue that evolution is both a fact and a theory.
    62. The Tiktaalik is a fossil that shows the transition between a fish and a walking tetrapod. This “fishapod” had developed wrist and finger bones that enabled it to prop itself up on its fins. Holes on top of its head suggest it may have breathed air through primitive lungs.
    63. The term “evolution” dates from the Latin evolutionem, meaning “unrolling” or “an opening of what was rolled up.”
    64. Scientists believe that red hair and pale skin was evolutionarily advantageous in northern Europe because it helped humans to synthesize vitamin D more easily.

The Island Where Everyone Wears A Gas Mask!

Mount Oyama

Resting atop a chain of volcanoes, Miyake-jima is an island in the Izu group, southeast of Honshƫ, Japan. About 160 kilometers south of Tokyo , this town is a hub for volcanic activity where over the past century, the volcanoes have erupted six times. The worst of these occurred in June 2000 when, after a repose of 17 years Mount Oyama which is an extremely active volcano spot erupted & 17,500 earthquakes hit the island between June 26 and July 21.

Inside of Mount OyamaEruption of Mount Oyama in Miyakejima Japan Picture

During the assault of eruptions and earthquakes, ash plumes soaring as high as 10 miles enveloped Miyake-jima, and heavy ash fell as the craters collapsed. High levels of toxic sulphur dioxide would regularly rise up through the ground, making 20 percent of the land not fit for habitation. Covered with a cloud of harmful sulphur dioxide gas, spewed into the air by volcanic eruptions, the islands heavy weather systems and cold make it worse. At one point, it was so bad that it was polluting the air with 42,000 tons of sulphur dioxide per day. Those who have studied the volcano’s patterns have found that it goes off in intervals of 20 years.  But even when Mount Oyama isn’t mid-eruption, it continues to emit sulfuric gas.

Miyakejima Panorama Photograph

The eruptions released so much toxic gas into the air that three months later in September, the government had to force a mass evacuation of the entire island. Over 3,600 people evacuated the island in 2000 because of the toxic gases which could harm their lungs. For five years, Miyake-jima was declared off-limits, with the barren island resembling a post-apocalyptic world. Dead trees and rusted cars peppered the derelict space. Mount Oyama continued to emit 10,000 to 20,000 tons of sulphuric dioxide gas from its summit every day for two years following the eruption. Slowly, though, the evacuation order began to lift, and in 2005 citizens were allowed to return to their homes.

6_gas mask town japanGas Protection

Despite the high level of volcanic activity that causes poisonous gas to leak from the earth, some island denizens just can’t stay away! Some opted to remain in their relocated houses in Tokyo, but about 2,800 chose to return, taking back the island’s abandoned buildings. They have adopted ways to suit the living conditions in the island.

8_gas mask town japan

Considering the re-populating of the island, nearly a third of Miyake-jima remains permanently uninhabitable and the government mandates regular health checkups and enforces age restrictions in certain areas. In terms of monitoring the air quality, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government has been watching the volcanic activity through videos, helicopter and satellite images.

Naval Leapfrog4_gas mask town japan3_gas mask town japan

In the meantime, civilians walk around with gas masks to protect themselves from the toxicity. All residents and visitors are required to carry gas masks, and an air raid alarm goes off when the sulfur levels get unhealthily high. So when the air quality gets bad enough, the town turns into a masked extra-terrestrial looking crowd of people seemingly attending the same themed costume party.

Miyakejima The Gas Mask Town

But all that poisoned air does have its perks. While many wouldn’t exactly call this an ideal spot for tourists, some curious about this town where the citizens wear gas masks do venture through. Gas mask tourism is a huge draw for people who want to pretend they’re living in the post-destruction age. With disposable masks sold at ferry stations and local stores, this gas-soaked village hasn’t kept tourists away. The city’s site advises visitors to learn about the harmful effects of sulfur dioxide before visiting as it can be quite damaging to one’s health. They even suggest tourists get a respiratory medical exam before booking the trip. Visitors can also take tours of abandoned houses, flattened cars and a school gym half-destroyed by lava or dip themselves in hot spring baths, until self-awareness hits and visitors realize that they find disaster enjoyable enough to pay for.

9_gas mask town japan

Free Basics – Why You Shouldn’t Support It!

There’s a lot of buzz going around ‘Free Basics’ – A platform that Facebook is trying to get it launched full-fledged in India. But what exactly is Free Basics? Does it really mean that Indians will now have access to basic Internet for free? Let’s find that out in detail. Whether the claims are too good to be true or it’s just another scam that can prove to be really disastrous in future!

Why ‘Internet.org’ was renamed to ‘Free Basics’?

About a year ago, when Internet.org was launched in India, countless netizens protested as it was against net neutrality. Shocked by this response, the marketing department of Facebook renamed it to ‘Free Basics’ and re-launched it here as they thought Indians would never say ‘no’ to anything that says ‘free’. Facebook has been aggressively marketing to get it accepted by India’s Telecom regulator. Right from publishing full page newspaper ads, roadside banners and online ads, they have also started sending constant notifications to all their Indian Users to click a button which will direct an email to TRAI saying that you support ‘Free Basics’. They ‘accidentally’ sent these notifications to foreign users as well. And, if you do not accept their pesky notifications, they make you feel guilty for not supporting ‘digital equality’ by showing the list of your friends who support it. By the look of these ads, it seems like Facebook is doing a huge favor for India through ‘Free Basics’ and our government is acting all evil trying to put a stop to their good efforts. But is that so?

What is Free Basics?

Free Basics is a platform given by Facebook in association with telecom operators, where certain basic internet websites will be available free of cost. This means, if you are visiting Facebook or its partner websites, you don’t have to pay internet charges at all. However, if you are visiting other websites such as Google, you need to pay data charges as you have been doing all this while. In India, Facebook has tied up with Reliance to make certain websites free of cost. However, while Facebook claimed that the initiative would allow people who cannot afford the Internet to get access to ‘information’ and connect with the world, a number of people and organizations have been opposing it. And this is because ‘Free Basics’ does not mean free access to the whole of Internet.

What is Net Neutrality?

Net Neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet the same, not discriminating or charging differently by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or mode of communication. It is one of the fundamental principle due to which Internet exists in the form we see today. Source: Net neutrality- Wikipedia

Internet Access v/s Services on the Internet

Google is a service and so is “Internet access” – and if many of you are using Google service for free – then there is no point in fighting or debating for “Internet access” which is also a service. Google service also requires infrastructure and Internet Access also requires infrastructure – it depends on the business model of the companies on how they generate revenue.  Internet is an open protocol and there is difference between protocols and infrastructures. What we pay for is “Internet access” because that requires a lot of infrastructure and we pay rent for using that infrastructure. Gmail or Facebook are services but not the internet. Internet is collection of those services from which the user should be allowed to choose what he/she likes.

What does Reliance gain from this?

Here’s the deal. You have two options to access Facebook: (1) You can choose Reliance network, and access it for free; or (2) You can choose other telecom operators and pay for the same service. What will you do? It is obvious that people would prefer to go for Reliance. However, once you register on the Reliance network, you realize that actually you need more than just the websites available on Free Basics. Free Basics does not have Google, YouTube, Amazon, Flipkart, Yahoo, LinkedIn,Twitter, Snapdeal, HDFC, ICICI, PayTM, eBay, IRCTC, NDTV, Rediff, Quora, Quikr, RedBus, BSE/NSE and the list goes on. The basics of Indian internet is not on Free “Basics” and you will soon realize, (Click on the image below) that it offers nothing significant, and you will anyway need to pay for the other services.

websites freebasics

When these people, who are now interested in internet, get converted to full payment service, then Reliance becomes their obvious choice. Therefore, telecom operators gain from Free Basics because it increases their subscribers.

What happens if other Telecom Operators join?

We now know Reliance is interested in Free Basics as it gives them an edge over other telecom providers. However, what if other telecom operators also join in? Imagine if all the major telecom operators in India such as Idea, Airtel, Vodafone etc. join the Free Basics platform, what happens then? Reliance will not have any inherent advantage and in that sense, all the websites listed above will be available for free on all the networks. In that case, these telecom operators will gain nothing and will all be just killing themselves? The fact is that these telecom operators are interested in this initiative because it gives them more subscribers. It increases the size of the market as a whole. A lot of people from rural India who have never used internet on their mobile phones will now start using internet. In this whole initiative, the telecom operators will eventually win, because their subscriber base will go up. You may argue that they are not charging for it (because it is free basics). But this argument is foolish because you and I both appreciate that the websites offered by Free Basics are not even basics. They are not offering useful websites like Khan Academy or Amazon or Quora or even Google for that matter. Therefore, anyone who subscribes to Free Basics will eventually want to shift to the full version of internet.

Why is Free Basics a problem?

One thing we must understand is that internet has always been free, fair and democratic in terms of access of information and usage. But today with the dawn of Free Basics, this space is under threat. Even though we do not discuss or see it around us, the World Wide Web dictates our present and future in a manner more real than we can imagine. The ones who are joining the internet today or in the future should be able to use the internet without any restriction, just the way it is meant to be. The issue here is that Facebook’s Free Basics app offers some Internet services (like Facebook) for free, but doesn’t offer the entire Internet for free. This violates net neutrality, the concept that all content online should be treated equally.

Plus no competitor of Facebook would use free basics for obvious reasons. We must never forget that it’s a public company. Even if Marks intentions are good, in difficult times they would use everything they have like targeted ads, big data and many more. Facebook at present sells your data to NSA (source) and this is a security issue for India. So you can anticipate what they can do in future. But the major problem is the ecosystem which is what they are trying to create over the coming years.

Today, there are nearly 1 billion websites and if we consider that there are 3.5 billion users of the Internet, 1 (which could be you) out of every 3.5 such users also offer content or services. The reason that the Internet has become such an influential force for change in such a short period of time is precisely because anybody can connect to anyone, anywhere in the world, not only to receive, but also to provide content or service. This gives both sides equal access to the Internet. But unfortunately, all this would stop if the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) or telecom companies (Telcos) are given the right to act as gatekeepers.

No ISP or Telco can decide what part of the Internet or which websites we can access. Tim Wu, the father of net neutrality, has written that keeping the two sides of the Internet free of gatekeepers is what has given a huge incentive for generating innovation and creating content. This is what has made the Internet, as a platform, so different from other mass communications platforms such as radio and television. Essentially, it has unleashed the creativity of the masses; and it is this creativity we see in the hundreds of millions of active websites. Facebook’s ads and Mark Zuckerberg’s advertorials talk about education, health and other services being provided by Free Basics, without telling us how on earth are we going to access education or doctors and medicines through the Internet? It forgets that while English is spoken by only about 12 per cent of the world’s population, 53 per cent of the Internet’s content is English. If Indians need to access education or health services, they need to access it in their own languages and not in English. No education can succeed without teachers. The Internet is not a substitute for schools and colleges but only complements and that too if the material exists in the languages understandable by the students. Similarly, health demands clinics, hospitals and doctors and not just a few websites on a private Facebook platform.

The danger of privileging Free Basics over a public Internet is that it initiates a new kind of digital divide among the people. A large fraction of people who join Free Basics may come to believe that Facebook is indeed ‘The Internet’. Just the way the British Empire was based on the control of the seas, whoever controls the vast oceans of data today, controls the global economy.

Net neutrality is not an obscure subject which concerns only a few netizens. It is fundamental to the world, in which the Internet is a fountainhead of knowledge, a platform for communication and an artery of commerce. The one who wheels access to the Internet will control our future ultimately. This is what the current battle over Facebook’s Free Basics is all about.

Why hasn’t Free Basics launched in the US or other major economies?

This scam has been pushed through these poor, mostly helpless African nations who have no experience of anything better and who have no ‘activists’ like us who tell their governments they’re raising a generation of deprived children with no access to the real internet. The more online-progressive countries like Japan, Norway, Finland, Estonia and Netherlands have banned programs such as Free Basics. With over 12 lakh emails to TRAI last year, we worked our way towards a ban for it in India too – but Facebook has since spent a large amount of cash in ads, lobbying, diplomacy and PR to try to get it unbanned here. They’ve managed to re-open a closed issue, again. And now we need to re-shut Free Basics.  This program, call it digital apartheid if you will, has been roundly condemned by experts ranging from Tim Berners-Lee, the gentleman who invented the world-wide web, to Ph. D. researchers to civil society officials working in the field, globally. Just because countries like South Africa did not know how to say no to Facebook doesn’t mean India has to say yes. In fact, India saying no to this digital apartheid should hopefully inspire the African and other poor nations to kick out this evil program that serves no one but Facebook at their government’s expense. The issue in India is big, not only because it is home to Facebook’s second-biggest user base outside the U.S., but because whatever happens in India will likely set a precedent in other important countries, like Indonesia and Brazil.

Click on the image below for the list of countries where Free Basics has been launched.

FREEBASICS COUNTRIES 3

FREEBASICS COUNTRIES 2

FREEBASICS COUNTRIES 1

In the US, Facebook is strongly on the side of net neutrality – but in the developing and undeveloped world, they speak from the other side of their mouth, blatantly seeking to violate net neutrality and to give our citizens here a second-rate online experience that they wouldn’t even dream of offering people in their home country.  There are almost 50 million unconnected people in the US. Why haven’t Facebook tried offering them this shoddy program and see how the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) responds to them? We Indians do not need a “bridge” to the full internet, when we can have the full internet itself. The “bridge” is a fancy invention by Facebook to refer to a holding area where Facebook holds, numbers and tracks people before they pay up and wander off into the real internet. Study after study has shown that the poor and the less fortunate in undeveloped nations vastly prefer limited access to the full internet (for example a data limit or a speed limit) rather than full access to a few limited sites – like the one ‘Facebook Free Basics’ offers. They want the freedom of choice. Why hasn’t Facebook chosen the other, proven options to bring people to the internet that do not violate Net Neutrality?

Is Facebook doing this as charity?

Forget their lies about “wanting to connect India” – if they really did, they would offer the open and full internet to everybody for free. The real reason is something they have never denied: their rivalry with Google and their questionable stock price. Both companies have 1.5 billion users, but Google makes Rs. 70,000 crores while Facebook does less than one-fifth as well. In other words, for every new user that comes on the internet, Facebook makes Rs. 8, while Google makes around Rs. 48. Facebook’s stock is valued at a much higher multiple than Google. With no reason to support the extreme price, it will fall. For Facebook to keep their stock price high, and to keep Zuckerberg and wife as rich as they are, they need to find new users who sign up for Facebook, but at the same time do not use Google. Thus a strategy via this program was planned out to offer Facebook but not Google at the mass, poor people level. Who is outside the first 1.5 billion people? It’s mostly people in India and China. But since Facebook is banned in China, the essential to Mark Zuckerberg’s balance sheet becomes us, Indians! Hundreds of crores of ad spend, against tens of thousands of crores of valuation is just nothing!

The internet market growth is getting saturated in the western world as most people are already using internet. India and other Asian countries have a large untapped population who are yet to use internet. Facebook wants to acquire these users by any means possible. One easy way to make Facebook popular among these users is to give it for free. Do you know how drug-agents get college students addicted to their drugs? They first give it for completely free. Then once the students get addicted to it, they start charging them heftily. Free basics is launched for Facebook’s best interests. Otherwise why are they so pushy about this and investing millions for the ad campaign itself, when people are clearly protesting against it? Reliance – the official network partner of Free basics advertises it as ‘Free Facebook’ on newspapers (Source)

Who will get affected?

There are many other reasons why Facebook’s Free Basics Digital Apartheid is bad. We need to get this fact across to people that Free Basics is not offering anyone internet but only sponsored content. We must understand that internet will stand true to its name only if it gives equal opportunities to all the people. If Free Basics starts operating full-fledged, it will be unfair because those websites will now have more viewers than others. And in this way, the other websites will suffer. And the very premise on which internet flourished, will be destroyed. Why is a company like Flipkart able to compete with Amazon today. This is because they have an equal platform called the internet. Today, they are competing only on the basis of their services. This is a healthy competition and it is beneficial for everyone. Startups like Ola are able to efficiently compete with established taxi companies such as Uber. Just imagine what would have happened if Ola did not have an equal opportunity? What would have happened if Uber was available for free and not Ola? Internet is giving an equal opportunity to a number of people because all of them can reach so many users at the same time. This is the magic of the internet. Therefore, with the advent of internet, people are able to genuinely compete only on the basis of services that they offer. Free Basics is going to destroy that. This model will give some companies an edge over the others and will therefore discourage other innovative ideas.

It’s bad for entrepreneurs – your business can’t be discovered by these new potential users on the Internet until you advertise on Facebook. The same goes for big businesses. If a lot of people switch to free internet and Free Basics – then paid-subscribers can be hurt big time. Suppose you start a website that caters to the weather forecast requirements of farmers. With the help of Free Basics, a lot of farmers are able to use internet. However, they cannot access your application because your website is not available in the Free Basics platform. On the other hand, assume a farmer wants to buy a television set for his family. He has an option of buying from A or B. However, he can only access A, because other websites like B are not available for free. Maybe, he ends up paying more for that TV set. The issue with Free Basics is that, it is controlling the content available for the subscribers of internet. Therefore, your website will not be able to reach a lot of subscribers just because you don’t have a tie up with Free Basics. This is outright unfair – both to the website owners (such as the person who works hard to create a useful website for farmers) and also the subscribers (such as the farmer who doesn’t even know that he can have better facilities on other websites). This is against the principle of net neutrality. This is applicable to urban India/metros where the mobile internet is exhausted. Having understood the scenario pretty well, Facebook can slowly take control of the internet by arm-twisting all telecoms into being the sole provider of free internet bundle.

Facebook or Whatsapp wasn’t a basic internet service 10 years ago. If some other company X had offered their service free from past 15 years then Facebook/ Whatsapp wouldn’t have even existed. The things which may look basic now may not be basic in the next 10 years. By giving Facebook control of which apps to give for free, we are creating a monopoly. New startups won’t be able to compete as everyone will use the Facebook’s free alternative. For example:- If free basics was launched in 2010, then Whatsapp would never have been so popular as ‘Facebook Messenger’ would have been free, while you would have to pay data charges to use ‘Whatsapp’ or any other service. This creates a monopolistic environment where only Facebook will thrive.

Have any other telecom companies offered a Zero-Rating platform?

Earlier, Airtel had offered a similar platform called Airtel Zero, using the zero-rating concept. Zero-rating is a practice where internet service providers (ISPs) do not charge customers on data for select applications that they use. Following a public outcry from those who want a free and equal internet, a number of firms, including Flipkart, pulled out of Airtel Zero. Similarly, Cleartrip and NDTV had also pulled out of internet.org. Free Basics operates on the zero-rating principle.

What we really need to get India digitally connected?

There is no denying that a lot of users in India are not connected to the internet, and we know that they would be better off if they were genuinely connected to all the plethora of services that internet can offer them. But this cannot be done by differentiating between some websites over others. Moreover, the power of differentiation cannot be controlled by a single entity (Facebook). This is the case of too much power in the hands of too few people, and this is always disastrous.

While the Free Basics platform has connected only 15 million people in different parts of the world, in India, we have had 60 million people join the Internet using mobiles in the last 12 months alone. And this is in spite of the high cost of mobile data charges. There are 300 million mobile broadband users in the country, an increase fuelled by the falling price of smart phones. In spite of this increase in connectivity, we have another 600 million mobile subscribers who need to be connected to the Internet. Instead of providing Facebook and its few partner websites and calling it “basic” Internet, we need to provide full Internet at prices that people can afford. This is where the regulatory system of the country has to step in. The main barrier to Internet connectivity is the high cost of data services in the country. If we use purchasing power parity as a basis, India has expensive data services compared to most countries. That is the main barrier to Internet penetration. Till now, TRAI has not regulated data tariffs. It is time it addresses the high price of data in the country and not let such prices lead to a completely truncated Internet for the poor. There are various ways of providing free Internet, or cost-effective Internet, to the low-end subscribers. They could be provided some free data with their data connection, or get some free time slots when the traffic on the network is low. 2G data prices can and should be brought down drastically, as the telcos have already made their investments and recovered costs from the subscribers.

Ways Facebook can help without violating Net Neutrality, but they won’t!

There are many, many proven and better ways to get the less fortunate on the Internet – rather than wearing the Facebook Free Basics handcuffs. Schemes such as Gigato offer free data for normal usage of apps. The Mozilla Foundation runs two programs for free and neutral Internet access. Facebook could work with them. Mozilla in partnership with Grameenphone in Bangladesh allows users to receive 20 MB of data usage for free each day, in exchange for viewing an advertisement. In Africa, Orange users get 500 MB of free access on buying a $37 handset. In India, Aircel has begun providing full internet access for free at 64 kbps download speed for the first three months. Facebook could sponsor and expand that. Facebook can give all Indian users free full access to internet upto a certain data limit every month. For instance, 100MB data free for everyone every month without any restrictions. They can give Free internet at low speeds upto a certain data limit. They can also provide ad supported free internet, without restrictions. They could give subsidized data coupons like Rs.10 for first 200MB of the month. Facebook could help lay the infrastructure (cables, routers etc) to connect villages/rural towns. They could offer free unrestricted internet to poor people in selected regions. They can create something like ‘Google Web Light for Slow Internet’ which will reduce the data size of all websites and provide it for free. Facebook can help doing something like these organizations have done, as part of their philanthropic effort.

What is ‘Free basics’/’Internet Dot Org’ according to Facebook?

Free Basics by Facebook provides free access to basic internet services to a billion people all over the world. It makes the internet accessible to more people by providing them access to a range of free basic services like news, maternal health, travel, local jobs, sports, communication, and local government information. To date, we’ve been able to offer these services to a billion people across Asia, Africa and Latin America. By introducing people to the benefits of the internet through these services, we hope to bring more people online and help improve their lives.

That really makes it look so good, right? Who doesn’t want free unlimited internet? You can imagine that a poor kid in a village in central India should be able to see Khan Academy videos, her Dad should be able to look up agricultural spot prices on Google or a commodity exchange and perhaps her Mom could look for a better-paying jobs at a top job board. But no, none of these are a part of the so-called “Free Basics” that Facebook offers the poor. Videos in fact, are not available at all, presumably to conserve bandwidth so it can be retained for more important things like villagers sending each other Candy Crush requests. There is no place these folks can buy, or sell or trade. There’s no Kiva or other bottom-of-pyramid money service. No loans they can receive. No government sites, no banks. No Coursera or EdX or Khan Academy – so it’s not about education either. Forget about entertainment – there’s absolutely none of that. You name any possible site of importance to someone who needs information and opportunities, and it’s not there. But, hey, I guess then you can always poke folks in the next village!

Who is paying for Free Basics?

Telecom operators pay for Free Basics and they get this money from users who pay. By encouraging people to choose Free Basics, Facebook reduces the tendency to bring down data costs for paid Internet access. Free Basics isn’t about bringing people online. It’s about keeping Facebook and its partners free, while everything else remains paid. Users who pay for Internet access can still access Free Basics for free, giving Facebook and its partners an advantage. Internet access is growing rapidly in India. Free Basics is not an open platform. Facebook defines the technical guidelines for Free Basics, and reserves the right to change them. They reserve the right to reject applicants, who are forced to comply with Facebook’s terms. In contrast they support ‘Permissionless Innovation’ in the US. Facebook was criticized in Brazil for misleading advertising (source). Their communication in India is misleading. People find the “Free” part of Free Basics advertising from Facebook from Reliance misleading (source). Facebook says that Free Basics doesn’t have ads, but does not say that it will never have ads on Free Basics.

How Facebook got you to support Free Basics – A sly move!

FREEBASICS FACEBOOK MESSAGE

 

What can you do to stop ‘Free basics’?

They may claim 3.2 million in support, but how many of those mails are legitimate?  Remember this. Internet exists in its current form because of net neutrality. (It is not just a buzz word.) If it wasn’t neutral then you wouldn’t be reading opposing opinions. You can go to Save The Internet! and send an email to TRAI saying you are against this. You can spread this information and ask your friends to also do the same. It is important for the people who know the truth to help others understand it.

Say No To Free Basics! Save The Internet!