Apple, Facebook threats to open Internet, says Google's Sergey Brin

Although he wasn't on stage at the keynote, Google's Sergey Brin made an appearance at the press conference following the keynote Wednesday.
James Martin/CNET
Sergey Brin at the press conference
Google co-founder Sergey Brin
James Martin/CNET

(CBS News) Google co-founder Sergey Brin takes a swing at Apple and Facebook, saying the two companies threaten freedom and innovation on Internet.

Brin said in an interview with the Guardian, there were "powerful forces" at work worldwide against the open internet - including Apple and Facebook.

"I am more worried than I have been in the past...It's scary," Brin said.

Brin went on to complain about the ecosystem of closed networks, like Facebook or Apple iOS apps. Not surprisingly, there was no mention of data stored by Android app.

"There's a lot to be lost," Brin told the Guardian. "For example, all the information in apps - that data is not crawlable by web crawlers. You can't search it."

Of course, Brin's complaints are self-serving. Google+, the search engine giant's social network is in direct competition with Facebook. Google is blocked from indexing Facebook's 800 million reported members worldwide. That's a large chunk of data that can only be accessed from within Facebook's closed network.

In the Guardian article, Brin lamented the fact that Google might not have been possible in today's web culture.

"Brin said he and co-founder Larry Page would not have been able to create Google if the internet was dominated by Facebook." You have to play by their rules, which are really restrictive," he said. "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."

The search engine behemoth was blasted by Twitter general counsel Alex Macgillivray in January when it announced that Google+ profiles would be searchable as parts of Google's switch to "Search, plus your world" - a customized search experience.

The feature included personal search results, like photos stored in Picasa, Google+ posts and results from Google+ circles. Critics believed Google was abusing their power by tilting search results in favor of their own products, like Google+.

"Bad day for the Internet. Having been there, I can imagine the dissension @Google to search being warped this way," tweeted Macgillivray in January.

While the battle between Google, Facebook and Apple makes exhilarating conversation for fans and critics, it is part of a larger conversation - the future of the open web.

The interview with Brin is part of the Guardian's week-long investigative series, "Battle for the Internet." The reports will cover the "struggle for digital control that is being played out across the globe between governments, companies, military strategists, activists and hackers."