Photo: Thomas Hawk via Google+
Over the weekend, the Guardian reported that Google cofounder Sergey Brin believes “Web freedom faces its greatest threat ever,” thanks to government suppression, the entertainment industry, and Google rivals Apple and Facebook – because their Web products promote “restictive walled gardens.”If that kind of talk doesn’t get your eyes rolling, you’re probably a Googler or would like to be one.
Anyway, Brin caught a lot of flack for his statement and today, and today, he’s taken to Google+ to explain himself.
He says he’s actually a big admirer of Google and Facebook:
I have much admiration for…Apple and Facebook. I have always admired Apple’s products. In fact, I am writing this post on an Imac and using an Apple keyboard I have cherished for the past seven years. Likewise, Facebook has helped to connect hundreds of millions of people, has been a key tool for political expression and has been instrumental to the Arab Spring. Both have made key contributions to the free flow of information around the world.
He says his point is that great new companies are more likely to appear when they can develop on platforms that are more “open” than Apple’s or Facebook’s:
I became an entrepreneur during the 90’s, the boom time of what you might now call Web 1.0. Yahoo created a directory of all the sites they could find without asking anyone for permission. Ebay quickly became the largest auction company in the world without having to pay a portion of revenue to any ISP. Paypal became the most successful payment company and Amazon soared in e-commerce also without such tolls or any particular company’s permission.
Today, starting such a service would entail navigating a number of new tollbooths and gatekeepers.
It’s all very silly. Google’s search algorithm is nothing if not the Web’s biggest gatekeeper. The idea that it somehow brings users an objective, open look at the Web is nonsense. It’s a very carefully authored piece of code meant to help users see the best of the Web and ignore the worst (spam, etc). As users, we’re grateful for it. Just like we’re happy that Facebook has finally bothered to quality control its apps, and Apple has always done so. Because we’re happy, those platforms are popular and people who make companies on top of them, Instagram on iOS or Zynga for Facebook, have done very well.
Brin is just mad because Facebook won’t let its users download their connections with friends and upload it into Google+. But wouldn’t that be a very stupid thing for Facebook to allow?