Sergei Brin on the existential crisis of the net: walled gardens + snooping governments

Google co-founder Sergey Brin gave an interview to The Guardian in which he expressed his fear that the rise of walled gardens like Apple's iOS ecosystem and Facebook, combined with increased state action (even in so-called "liberal" western states) to spy on and control the Internet, that the Internet faces a real existential crisis. The interview is part of a larger series in the Guardian on the subject of the Internet's future, and the whole thing is worth your time.

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's criticism of Facebook is likely to be controversial, with the social network approaching an estimated $100bn (£64bn) flotation. Google's upstart rival has seen explosive growth: it has signed up half of Americans with computer access and more than 800 million members worldwide.

Brin said he and co-founder Larry Page would not have been able to create Google if the internet was dominated by Facebook. "You have to play by their rules, which are really restrictive," he said. "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."

He criticised Facebook for not making it easy for users to switch their data to other services. "Facebook has been sucking down Gmail contacts for many years," he said.

Later in the interview, Brin talks about the measures that Google takes to avoid turning over its vast storehouse of personal information to snooping US authorities, but there's no evidence that anyone asked him the obvious question: "Why not collect less information, and delete it more often?"

Web freedom faces greatest threat ever, warns Google's Sergey Brin

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