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destroying the Internet?
Guardian interviewed Google co-founder Sergey Brin as a teaser for their
week-long series of articles about the "Battle for the Internet"
(http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/series/battle-for-the-internet) they got
a good headline out of it: "Google's
Brin: threats to web freedom 'greater then ever.' A perfect attention getter for what looks like a good week
of meaty Internet freedom topics.
While they do seem to be missing the most important Internet freedom
topic -- the World Conference on International
Telecommunications (WCIT-12) coming up in December in Dubai -- the
topics they have chosen present real threats to what most of us see as the
freedom of the Internet.
subheadline on the Brin interview is "Threats range from governments trying
to control citizens to the rise of Facebook and Apple-style 'walled
coincidentally, ties in just about perfectly with the theme of day three
"the new walled gardens."
In the article about the interview (http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2012/apr/15/web-freedom-threat-google-brin)
the Guardian says "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."
what can only be described as hyperbole, Brin said that he would not have been
able to create Google if Facebook had already existed. A profoundly silly
thing to say. Even today,
with its hundreds of millions of users, Facebook is a very, very small part of
the Internet. I happen to think
that it would better for the average Internet user if Google were able to crawl
and index the non-private parts of Facebook since I find it hard to find
anything there, but Google finds plenty to tell me about when I search for
topics of interest or a shirt to buy.
other area of hyperbole concerns Apple and its supposed "stifling
innovation and balkanizing the web." Brin is not the first to cry foul about
Apple's control over what programs can be run on its iOS devices including the
iPhone and iPad. This complain was
also a theme of Jonathan Zittrain's "The Future of the Internet — And How to Stop
This may be a real complaint about
Apple iOS devices, it is not an issue with Apple OS X devices -- you can
download and run anything you want to, though a security feature in Mountain
Lion (http://www.apple.com/macosx/mountain-lion/security.html) may make it a
bit harder to do so in the future.
Even if it is a real complaint, it does not hurt enough people enough to
cause anyone but the purists to complain - its hard to justify a position that
Apple inhibits iOS innovation when the Apple iOS App Store includes more than a
half million applications.
as a purist, I'd like to
see more ability to create & load applications on iOS devices, it only take
a quick glance at the Android world to see how messy that can quickly get. What I really want to see is an
iPad-like device that runs OS X but can also run all the iOS applications. Maybe a Macbook Air with a fold over
screen so it could be used both ways.
That combination is one that should worry Brin, but
not for Internet openness reasons.
disclaimer: Harvard is generally not seen as an
institution that worries all that much, at least about how people perceive it,
so the above commentary is mine, not the university's.