This just in: Apple and Facebook are bad guys out to steal your precious Webbernet freedoms. Google? Just a cuddly widdle bear, waiting for a hug. Or so says Sergey Brin in an interview published yesterday in the U.K.'s Guardian.
Perhaps that is a wee bit of an oversimplification. What Brin really said was this:
Very powerful forces ... have lined up against the open Internet on all sides and around the world. ... For example, all the information in apps -- that data is not crawlable by Web crawlers. You can't search it.
You have to play by [Facebook's] rules, which are really restrictive. 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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Brin is talking about the fact that Apple's apps universe and Facebook are walled gardens that say "invitation only" on the gate, and Google isn't on the guest list. Some critics have suggested that Brin's statements might be a bit self-serving, given that Apple and Facebook are Google's two biggest competitors.
Ya think? Of course, the notion that Apple is a world unto itself is hardly new. Part of what Apple prided itself on in the Jobs era and beyond has been a near-fanatical control over everything in the Mac and iOS ecosystems, especially the iTunes Store. The company and its supporters have argued that limiting options makes Apple products less likely to fail than, say, Windows products, and the vetting process for the iTunes Store helps keep apps safer than, say, Android Market's -- er, I mean Google Play's -- anything-goes atmosphere.
Both of those notions have taken big hits lately. Last November, security researcher Charlie Miller managed to slip a potentially malevolent rogue app right past the Apple Store mandarins. (Apple responded by revoking his developer credentials). Of course, the current Flashback Trojan botnet puts the lie to the notion that Macs are somehow virus free. Apple's walled garden is becoming less and less beneficial to anyone but Apple.
As for Facebook, it is the AOL of our generation. It wants its own separate Internet with its own separate rules. That would OK, I guess, if Facebook did a good job of policing its own turf. But it doesn't. Its search capabilities are atrocious, scammers are running wild, and its app approval process makes Google's look flawless by comparison. There are weeds growing all over Facebook's walled garden, and Facebook responds by building taller fortifications.