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Sergey Brin: Apple, Facebook are stifling innovation with ‘walled gardens’

Facebook and Apple are a threat to internet freedom. That’s according to Google co-founder Sergey Brin.

Brin made the comments in an exclusive interview with UK newspaper The Guardian, adding that he and Larry Page would not have been able to make success of Google on an internet dominated by Facebook.

The 38-year-old billionaire said that there were “very powerful forces that have lined up against the open internet on all sides and around the world”.

Those powerful forces include governments around the world that have put restrictions on the web, and social media in particular. In the interview, Brin said that such a scenario would have been scarcely believable five years ago:

“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,” he said.

On a global scale, however, Brin warned that the rise of Facebook and Apple, with their “walled gardens”, could see innovation stifled on the web.

That the two companies control who’s allowed to access their products and what software is allowed to run on their platforms means that a lot of information is lost, he said:

“For example, all the information in apps — that data is not crawlable by web crawlers. You can’t search it.”

If Facebook had been around when he and Page had started Google, Brin said, Google would have had a difficult time getting started: “You have to play by their rules, which are really restrictive.
“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.”

While some have expressed concern about Google having the significant amounts of data on them, Brin said the real threat is actually the US government and that the internet giant did its best to keep people’s data private:

“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. If we could be in some magical jurisdiction that everyone in the world trusted, that would be great… We’re doing it as well as can be done.”

Author | Stuart Thomas: Senior Reporter

Stuart Thomas: Senior Reporter
Stuart Thomas joined the Burn Media team in 2011 while finishing off an MA in South African Literature. Eager to prove his geek credentials, he allowed himself to be thrown in the deep and did his best stay afloat. When not fused with his keyboard, you can find him... More
  • Anon

    Cry me a river. There is so much contradiction in this article it is nauseating. Let me correct what Brin meant to say… “For example, all the information in apps — that data is not crawlable by web crawlers. You can’t search it and Google can’t capitalise on that information”