Google launched a service on Thursday that it hopes will allow millions of people in developing nations to access the internet for free.  The new service, named Free Zone, will facilitate the use of Google Search, Gmail and Google + through a special domain entry point.  The service launched in the Philippines and allows users with a free Google account to view the content on their cellphones without experiencing the data fees typical of viewing content from a phone.

While Free Zone does offer access to a fair number of free services it is not entirely benevolent.  Websites that are already listed by Google are accessible for free but those sites listed outside of Google’s network are offered at a premium.  Attempts to access websites outside of Google Search prompt an invitation to subscribe to a monthly mobile data plan.  Google hopes that by allowing users’ access to a free limited internet that they will convert users into profitable customers.  In countries where cellphones are common yet PC’s are a luxury, this will open up a huge new market of potential internet users.  Regardless of any additional fees associated with Google Search, free access to email for all people in the Free Zone coverage area will be a huge benefit to users.

Google will launch the Free Zone service in other developing nations in the future, according to Reuters.

“While developing countries like the Philippines have been enthusiastic early adopters of cellphones, there are still millions who either use phones too basic to be used for Internet services, or who are reluctant to shell out for more expensive services,”‘ the story reported. “The GfK Group, a research company which measures consumer habits, reported in September that while smartphone sales are growing rapidly in Southeast Asia, the more basic feature phones still outnumber their more expensive counterparts.”

The true benefit of the Free Zone service here is that those users who have only basic cellphones will still gain access to services typically reserved for higher end hardware.  In a time when internet access is a near necessity for the success new business and emerging economies, any access is better than none.  Even if Google’s motives are not truly altruistic they are still sure to help thousands of people as they bring the Free Zone service to new areas.

– Richard Keene
IT Computer Support of New York
Design and Optimization Department