Last week, a relative PM-ed me in Messenger and asked me to Google something for her. I did and then sent her a link and screenshot, both of which she told me she could not access because of her reliance to Free Facebook data. So I copy-pasted the text results instead.
Then it hit me. There's a good chunk of Facebook users that rely exclusively on its Free Facebook sub-features. For these people, Facebook is the Internet. They, more than anyone, need access to reliable information that does not depend on catchy yet misleading article headlines and chain messages forwarded in Messenger endlessly without prior research.
So over the weekend, I made a Facebook Messenger-based chatbot that acts as a simple search engine tool for people without access to the Internet outside the Free Facebook network. They can perform search queries, after which the bot will reply with a list of results.
The grand goal is to prevent spreading of disinformation and combat fake news, which is most prevalent in places with limited access to information in the web.
How do I use the chatbot?
Open the Messenger app, tap the Search bar and type "Free Web Search", or simply click this: http://m.me/FreeWebSearch
It may also be used as a very primitive web browser. Just send a link (e.g. "http://www.google.com") and the bot will respond with the text-only version of the website.
Why should I donate?
The chatbot application acts as a mediator between the user and the Google engine. It uses Google Search API as source and a Heroku backend for processing the data, as well as the requests. The current setup is quite expensive to maintain.
Here's the projected cost for a single year:
Google Search API
$50 x 365 days = $18,250
Heroku Standard Dyno
$25 x 12 months = $300
Even if you personally do not need this service, thousands of others do. So if you find this initiative worthwhile, please express your gratitude by helping it run for as long as possible.
We're planning on shifting to Bing Search API which has no volume limits and much cheaper than Google.
And what's next after that?
The dream is that very soon, a time will come when everyone will have unlimited access to reliable information from the Internet, regardless of their socioeconomic status.
In that future, this chatbot application will be obsolete. It will no longer be needed. This bot was created to give free, borderless, and open Internet access to anyone. Once we have that, it would have served its purpose. 🚀
But until that day comes, we will (hopefully) still have apps such as "Free Web Search" at our service.