In an interview with the Guardian over the weekend, Google’s cofounder Sergey 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 he was most concerned by the efforts of countries such as China, Saudi Arabia and Iran to censor and restrict use of the internet, but warned that the rise of Facebook and Apple, which have their own proprietary platforms and control access to their users, risked stifling innovation and balkanising the web.
There’s a lot to be lost, he said. “For example, all the information in apps – that data is not crawlable by web crawlers. You can’t search it.”
Brin cites a number of reasons for his concern of the threat to the freedom of the internet comes, he claims, from a combination of governments, such as Iran, increasingly trying to control access and communication by their citizens. He adds that the entertainment industry’s attempts to crack down on piracy, and the rise of “restrictive” walled gardens such as Facebook and Apple, which tightly control what software can be released on their platforms.
He said the Sopa and Pipa bills championed by the film and music industries would have led to the US using the same technology and approach it criticised 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.
Brin said the entertainment industry, was “shooting itself in the foot, or maybe worse than in the foot” by lobbying for legislation to block sites offering pirate material.
“If you compare the internet to the physical world, there really aren’t any walls between countries,” he said. “If Canada wanted to send tanks into the US there is nothing stopping them and it’s the same on the internet. It’s hopeless to try to control the internet.”
He also said that the closed systems for downloading appsand content, such as Apple’s iOS, could also lead to less freedom for users and developers. Facebook is also lumped into the closed system issue, with Brin claiming, “You have to play by their rules, which are really restrictive.”