Google co-founder Sergey Brin has issued a warning that there are “very powerful forces that have lined up against the open internet on all sides and around the world.” His warning comes with expressions of great concern that these same forces are working against the principles of openness and universal access that the Internet was founded on three decades ago.
Furthermore, Brin does everything short of calling his competition un-American in an effort to make them out to be the bad guys while painting a white cape on Google’s back.
As far as Google is concerned, the threat comes from “a combination of governments increasingly trying to control access and communication by their citizens, 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.”
Accepting that Brin may be a little more sensitive than most with a biography that includes having fled antisemitism in the Soviet Union, his comments have a ‘between the lines’ message that sounds a lot like whining because others are doing well where Google has been failing. Brin’s accusations that Facebook and Apple are essentially “stifling innovation and balkanising the web” would be a lot easier for me to swallow if Google hadn’t been trying desperately over the last several years to imitate those companies and emulate their successes.
Not to be missed is the quite purposeful grouping of Facebook with Apple in his complaints. While rumors of a deeper and more meaningful relationship blossomming between the two companies are running fairly quiet right now, many expect that the future is bright for the dynamic duo.
Once upon a time, Google created a search engine. It was a good search engine. It was really good. It became the best and all others pretty much paled by comparison. Around that time, Google made a whole big pile of money –the kind of liquid, spendable money that most companies (even successful ones) can only dream of. They spent a bunch of their money on air hockey tables for their staff to enjoy and fiddled around on this project or that project, each one launching with fanfare and disappearing nearly as fast. Somewhere in the middle they created this thing called Android and it’s pretty great too other than they didn’t keep enough control over it and now the product is making money like crazy for just about everybody but Google.
Brin does take it a step further though. He hypothesizes that he and Larry Page could not have created ‘Google’ if the Internet had been dominated by Facebook at the time. He thinks they have too many rules. He thinks rules are bad.
Last I checked, nobody voted Facebook (or Apple) king of the Internet. Plenty of people aren’t on Facebook and even more don’t care what rules they have or don’t have. You don’t like Apple and you hate that iOS apps only run on iOS devices? Don’t buy one. Just as Google sat at the top of the hill all those years ago, others are now having their chance.
As for governments and censorship, that is another issue entirely and one that was destined to emerge as the Internet became more popular and more diverse. This isn’t the first time. Governments have been banning books, filtering television programs and similar acts of control for as long as those things have existed –this isn’t new and Facebook and Apple certainly aren’t to blame.
While I’m doing my own ranting, somebody really needs to let Brin know that raising the bar for innovation is not the same thing as stifling it.