Google would not have been able to develop its search engine if the Internet had been dominated by Facebook, the company’s founder Sergey Brin said in an exclusive interview with The Guardian.
While several of his negative comments focused on the social networking company in the wake of its recent IPO, he actually showed more general preoccupation with web freedom.
It is under threat for several reasons, he said. On one hand, authoritarian countries such as China and Iran are trying to control the Internet. On the other hand, the film and music industries are calling for restrictive legislation in the US.
More generally, several tech corporations are challenging the web as we know it; according to Brin, walled gardens represent a serious menace to the open web. Facebook is one of them, but so are Apple or even apps, he explained:
“There’s a lot to be lost [with walled gardens]. For example, all the information in apps – that data is not crawlable by web crawlers. You can’t search it.”
This led him to wonder whether or not it would be possible to create a company such as Google in the new online environment that is emerging:
“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,” Brin predicted.
Of course, you may be tempted to object that we wouldn’t want all of our information to be scrawled by search engines. What about privacy? Yet, Brin insists that Facebook isn’t exactly a paragon of virtue: “Facebook has been sucking down Gmail contacts for many years,” he pointed out.