April 16, 2012
Google’s Brin Claims Apple And Facebook A Threat To Open Internet
According to Google co-founder Sergey Brin, the principles of openness and universal access that underpinned the creation of the internet more than thirty years ago are under a more intensive threat than ever.
In an interview with The Guardian's Ian Katz, Brin warned there were “very powerful forces that have lined up against the open internet on all sides and around the world”. “I am more worried than I have been in the past,” he said. “It´s scary.”
He said that Facebook and Apple are stifling innovation and risk Balkanizing the web, and went as far as to say that Google would never have come into existence if Facebook were dominant. “You have to play by their rules, which are really restrictive,” Brin continued.
“The kind of environment that we developed Google in, the reason that we were able to develop a search engine, is the web was so open. Once you get too many rules that will stifle innovation.”
Of course, there is some self-interest and questionable altruism in Brin´s assessment, writes Dan Farber of CNET. Brin would like to make all the information inside Facebook and Apple apps accessible to Google´s search engine. A more open web is certainly very good for the world but it´s also better for Google´s bottom line.
Google´s largest attempts at social networking, Google+, has had a rocky start and continues to stumble with gaining acceptance in regards to catching Facebook. The go-to social network, despite its size and questionable privacy practices continues to grow with more than four times the number of users and continues to gain momentum with acquisitions of game and app developers.
Apple has ridden its proprietary approach to apps and games to become the most valued company in the world and is Google´s main competitor in the smartphone and tablet arena, another area critical to Google´s business success.
Brin said five years ago he did not believe China or any country could effectively restrict the internet for long but he had been proven wrong. “I thought there was no way to put the genie back in the bottle, but now it seems in certain areas the genie has been put back in the bottle,” Richard Alleyne reports for The Telegraph.
China recently introduced new “real identity” rules in a bid to tame the boisterous microblogging scene.
Citizen blogs in Russia are blamed by the government for fomenting a wave of anti-Vladimir Putin protests and it has been reported that Iran is planning to introduce a sealed “national internet” from this summer.
Ricken Patel, co-founder of Avaaz, the 14 million-strong online activist network which has been providing communication equipment and training to Syrian activists, echoed Brin´s warning, “We´ve seen a massive attack on the freedom of the web.”
“Governments are realizing the power of this medium to organize people and they are trying to clamp down across the world, not just in places like China and North Korea; we´re seeing bills in the United States, in Italy, all across the world,” he told Katz
However Brin reserved his harshest words for the entertainment industry, which he said was “shooting itself in the foot, or maybe worse than in the foot,” by lobbying for legislation to block sites offering pirated material.
The SOPA and PIPA bills, Brin explained, would have led to the US using the same technology and approach it criticized China and Iran for using. The entertainment industry failed to appreciate people would continue to download pirated content as long as it was easier to acquire and use than legitimately obtained material, he said.
“I haven´t tried it for many years but when you go on a pirate website, you choose what you like; it downloads to the device of your choice and it will just work — and then when you have to jump through all these hoops [to buy legitimate content], the walls created are disincentives for people to buy,” he said.
So is Brin honestly concerned with the open freedom of the internet for all? Or is he concerned with increasing the marketability of Google?