A new Facebook lab is intent on delivering Internet access by drone
And to make the network more efficient, Mr. Maguire said, the planes would transmit data to each other using lasers before finally sending it back down to the earth. “You need to create an Internet in the sky,” he said. Mr. Maguire acknowledged that the whole thing sounds a bit pie in the sky. “We want to pursue a lot of directions — some risky that might not work,” he said. But the end goal of connecting the world to the Internet is important to Facebook and the company is determined to get there, he said.
Matthew Eastwood, an analyst with IDC, a technology research firm, said Facebook was trying to serve a population that no telecommunications provider had ever made money from. “You have to give them credit for thinking the way the telcos don’t.”
Facebook’s recent initiatives immediately bring to mind the “moon shots” pursued by its much bigger Silicon Valley rival, Google. Google has its own head-mounted computing project, called Glass. It’s trying to bring the Internet to the middle of nowhere through a network of high-flying balloons. The company has also developed self-driving cars, aggressively acquired robotics companies and dabbled in an array of science projects that wouldn’t seem to relate to its core, ad-driven business.
With Facebook, “the more I think about it — drones and virtual reality and the excessive amount of money they’re paying for WhatsApp — they’re making these decisions in lieu of having a solid business practice in place,” said Brian Blau, an analyst at the research firm Gartner. “Sometimes I get the feeling that Facebook is really just trying to keep up with the Joneses.”
Or perhaps the Googles.
Mr. Maguire, star of a recruiting video posted on Internet.org, played down the idea. He said he was not even trying to poach anyone from Google as he looked to add about 40 more rocket scientists, plane designers and laser communications wizards to his team. “You’re not going to find that expertise in the traditional Internet-based communities,” he said. “We think the talent comes from elsewhere.”