Facebook's drone program is over


Just a year back, Facebook was loudly touting its Aquila drone program, a scheme in which giant aircraft would use lasers to beam internet down to the ground. It was a bold sci-fi like idea, but apparently it's reached the end of the road.

It's actually crazy to think this is suddenly over given how far it had come in the two years since the company debuted a video showing off the maiden flight. The work hasn't gone to waste with 'partners' now building Aquila-style aircraft, just not Facebook itself, but the team designing the system has also been let go.

That's a big shift after acquiring a drone company for $20 million, starting a whole drone-building facility in Bridgewater, England, and hiring a team of 20 to work on them.

Facebook leaves Google alone as the company directly building hardware to deliver internet access from the skies with Loon, which appears to be more successful with deals in the pipeline to actually provide internet access becoming more common.

The move appears to mark a quiet retreat away from Internet.org's work to bring internet to new countries amidst building resistance from the very countries receiving free internet, or at least a change in strategy away from delivering it directly on its own.

In May, WIRED asked what happened to Facebook's grand plan to wire the world, which looks at all of the issues Internet.org has faced:

But from the start, critics were skeptical of Zuckerberg’s intentions. The company’s peers, like Google and Microsoft, never signed on as partners, preferring instead to pursue their own strategies for getting people online. Skeptics questioned the hubris of an American boy-billionaire who believed the world needed his help and posited that existing businesses and governments are better positioned to spread connectivity. 

Therein lies the difference between the projects, and perhaps why the Facebook one has struggled to gain traction: Facebook's version of 'providing internet' was to offer a walled-garden where Facebook was the first experience people would come online to, while Google's project offers the whole internet.

As Facebook tried to launch Internet.org as a altruistic project, presenting itself as a neutral player in the game, it's a company driven by profit, and even its partners in emerging countries were able to see that a mile away. 

Uber wins appeal to keep operating in London

A shock decision from Transport for London in September 2017 saw Uber teeter on the brink of losing one of its most important markets as the agency threatened to ban the company from operating there entirely. Losing London would've been a disaster for Uber, as one of the company's most profitable markets globally, but the company is now a part of life in the city, making it a harder choice to ban entirely. 

Now, it's won the right to stay in business there after the company made a number of rider and driver improvements that show more responsibility, including reporting 'serious incidents' to the police, a panic button in the app and many more.

Essentially, Uber doubled down on its push under new CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, to become a friendlier company that actually collaborate with cities, rather than the one that would try to work around regulation and authorities actively. 

It isn't out of the woods, with only a short-term 15-month license granted for operations to give the company time to prove it's actually changed through regular audits and checks. Whether or not it's able to keep up the positive image is another question, but it's a step ahead given that the company hopes to IPO next year.

Tab Dump

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Google kills the Doubleclick brand
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You can get the public betas of the next version of iOS and macOS today

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