What Sergey Brin thinks of Facebook, Apple, and the freedom of speech on the Internet

by: Bams SadewoApril 16, 2012
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As the founder of a company whose publicly assumed goal is to make the world’s information universally accessible and useful, Google’s Sergey Brin doesn’t have very nice things to say about Big G’s competitors and other Internet players. Convinced that there are “very powerful forces lined up against the open Internet on all sides and around the world”, Brin revealed in an interview with The Guardian that he’s now more worried than he’s ever been in the past. In his own words, it’s a scary world out there.

Echoing the sentiments that Larry Page, Google’s other founder and the company’s current CEO, has evoked in another interview last week, Brin warned about Facebook and Apple’s tendency to stick with their proprietary platforms and restrict access to their users, which would only stifle innovation and “balkanize” the web. For starters, you can’t search “all the information in apps,” according to the billionaire, since the data isn’t made available for web crawlers.

The social media giant is also called out for being too restrictive. “Facebook has been sucking down Gmail contacts for many years,“ Brin complained, who continued to say that Google wouldn’t have been able to exist if the internet was dominated by Facebook in 1998. “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.”

Aside from the walled gardens that Facebook and Apple have put up, other threats to the freedom of the Internet include the government and the entertainment industry. Hollywood has been pushing through legislation that allows the taking down of any website suspected to facilitate access to pirated content. According to Brin, the entertainment industry will only be “shooting itself in the foot, or maybe worse than in the foot”. He likens the failed Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) bills to the measures that China and Iran are taking to silence protesters.

Though he hasn’t tried it for many years, Sergey Brin said that, ultimately, the decision to obtain illegal materials on the web comes down to how easy it is for users to obtain the content they like. “When you have to jump through all these hoops [to download legal content], the walls created are disincentives for people to buy”.

Acknowledging the huge amount of data that Google has on its users, Brin said that the company is often forced to hand some of it over to US authorities, but not without a fight. “”We push back a lot; we are able to turn down a lot of these requests. We do everything possible to protect the data. If we could wave a magic wand and not be subject to US law, that would be great.”

Do you think Google is the good guy here? Can we trust Google for not being evil like their often-invoked motto suggests?

  • Google has been using “Open” as a ladder to win over Apple and Facebook. The question for Google is are they really open? Can Android allow Bing as default search engine? The reason why google is cribbing big time is because PC’s are dying which was there main source of revenue. Apple is slowly become the next web, the whole ecosystem created by Apple for Apps is killing Google’s revenue model of Click and earn.

    Google has started following anti competitive policies like displaying G+ result of Google search instead of twitter, there purchase of Motorola is also a big question mark on them.

    Sad to see Google trying to be a proponent of Open web. These are the signs of Google dying.

    • Cerberus

      “Can Android allow Bing as default search engine?”

      It already does, you fool.

      Do some research before commenting, when I got my android phone it gave me the option to choose between Google, Bing and Yahoo.

    • Even though Google seems to dictate that if a company wants to use the android trademark for its phone it HAS to use the propitiatory Google services, that still didn’t stop sprint( or was it Verizon?) from slapping Bing as default search engine on one of its phone models. Same goes for amazon , and Barnes and noble which use the open source android but otherwise uses mostly third party services instead of the Google apps. Thus since the Android project which is a Google-community-corporate partnership is easily used by a company which has made NO CONTRIBUTIONS to the overall effort, Google IS Pro-Open. As for Google’s revenue getting affected due death of PC’s that statement makes no sense as android is worlds largest mobile platform and Google STILL makes more money from iOS. As for the death of PC’s, let me tell you something …PC’s are not dying, they are just undergoing a transformation.However it is true that Facebook is the largest threat to Google as it sucks in more and more users into its closed network. Over and out!

  • Graham Laight

    I support Google wholeheartedly in these platforms wars – they are VERY MUCH the good guy. It’s easy to forget that until the mid 1980s, companies (not many people had their own computer) would buy their software from the same company that they bought the hardware from. Apple is trying to take portable computing back to that dark age.

    I don’t know much about Facebook – but they seem to be locking users into their platform as well. In contrast to FB, Google has an escape system that allows you to export all of your data and permanently say goodbye to them if you wish to.

  • 8PAQ

    By “Open” Google only means Internet were they can index everything and sell ads using it. That’s how Google makes money, by selling ads and by selling information about everyone of us to advertisers.

    • Cerberus

      If you think Google are the only and have onle ever been, the only company in history to do this, then you are a fool just like Sumit

  • HomeOfTheWhopper

    God forbid they make money on their services, 8PAQ. How many times have you used a Google service for free in the last week? Perhaps you should be in Zuccotti Park right now…

  • By balkanizing, we mean the weak with facebook, the narcissists with Apple and the cool and smart with Google, 1/3 1/3 and 1/3