Google co-founder worries about the future of the internet

The threat is multi-pronged. It comes from governments seeking to censor and control the internet, from the entertainment industry’s attempt to crackdown on piracy, and from the ‘walled gardens’ of companies like Apple and Facebook. He considers it so serious that he doubts that Google would have succeeded as a new company today.

He notes the successful attempts of China, Saudi Arabia and Iran to control the internet. “He said five years ago he did not believe China or any country could effectively restrict the internet for long,” reports the Guardian, “but now says he has been proven wrong. ‘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.”

Western governments aren’t so much trying to keep citizens off the internet as much as controlling what they see and where they go on the internet. The entertainment industry and warnings on the threat of terrorism are the reasons. Proposed laws like SOPA, now deflated if not yet defeated – and arguably because of the opposition of Google and Wikipedia – concentrated on the wishes of the entertainment industry. The newer CISPA bill, and the UK’s proposed traffic monitoring bill, are required according to their proponents primarily to counter terrorism. There is a public backlash to this censorship in Europe where proportional representation in electoral voting has seen the anti-censorship Pirate Party winning parliamentary seats in both Germany and now Austria in the last few weeks. The voting systems of both the US and UK will make it much harder for a new party to make headway.

But the threat to an open internet is not just from governments. Brin also comments on the walled gardens of Apple and Facebook. He pointed out “that [app] data is not crawlable by web crawlers. You can't search it.” And he was particularly strong in his comments about Facebook. “You have to play by their rules, which are really restrictive,” he said. In fact, he warned, “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.”

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