Web freedom is at serious risk. And Google's Sergey Brin knows just who to blame.
In a discussion with the Guardian, Brin said he's more worried than ever about the future of openness on the Web, and he pointed fingers at several entities putting freedom at risk. Repressive regimes, for example. The US government. Facebook and Apple.
As the Guardian points out about Brin's comments:
The threat to the freedom of the internet comes, he claims, 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.
Brin has some points here, and there's no doubt that the open Web is in danger on multiple fronts. But it's troubling that this warning is coming from Google -- the same Google that is seeking control of every Web process one can think of. (The same Google with this person as its chairman...)
Google, while still strong, has a lot to lose in the battle for the future of the Web. Facebook and Apple are natural competitors and digital thorns in its side. Controlled access hinders Google's ability to do successful business in places like China. Piracy crackdowns would seriously harm Google's ability to host content.
Now, please don't mistake my comments for those uttered by Cary Sherman, the RIAA chairman, who accused Google, Wikipedia, and basically everyone except SOPA supporters of tricking Web users into opposing that lethal legislation. Google et al didn't misinform us that SOPA was bad and dangerous news. Those companies were right and played an important part in January to put a stop to destructive legislation that the average Web user may not have otherwise known about.
What is concerning, though, is that it's clear Google sees an opportunity now to ride that wave and turn it in its own favor. It's not just SOPA that was bad, it's all things that don't jive with Google's business strategy (which, these days, seems to be "take over everything"). As Brin told the Guardian about Facebook, "You have to play by their rules, which are really restrictive."
Or as one commenter on the Guardian wrote:
Google playing the open and free card is highly cynical. Google's view is that it's great to be open as long as you are logged into a Google account where your web browsing behavior is efficiently tracked under one login and password, for the benefit of their advertising business.
If Google's chief Internet evangelist Vint Cerf's recent request for people to "start something" in the name of Web freedom is any indication, we can probably expect more to come from Google in terms of "warnings" about the future. And while those warnings may be within reason, when they're coming from the company that controls so much of the Web and seeks to control more, it's crucial to read between the lines.
— Nicole Ferraro , Editor in Chief, Internet Evolution