According to Google co-founder Sergey Bryn Internet freedom is under threat from government control and the interests of ‘walled gardens’ like Facebook.
Speaking to the Guardian, Sergey Bryn said that the concept of openness and freedom of information sharing that was at the heart of the web when it started was now under serious threat.
"I am more worried than I have been in the past," he told the Guardian. "It's scary."
The threats stem from two main sources he said. Firstly governments always looking for more ways to regulate the net and try to control access and communication between people. Secondly big businesses with their attempts to crack down on Internet piracy as well as creating ‘walled gardens’ where users are restricted in what they see and can do.
Many people, as shown by the comments under the Guardian article, would view this as the Google pot calling the Facebook kettle black. And there seems to be a general consensus that either one or other is just a bit more evil or money grabbing than the other.
But the Internet cannot work on its own. Just like travelling London streets and the underground you need a map to navigate around it. But with the billions of sites that now exist the job is infinitely more complex and costs money. So whoever supplies the maps (such as Google and Bing) will want to get paid.
There are also those who provide a one stop service for users, a sort of Wal-Mart or Tesco of the Web. These (Facebook and Myspace for example) allow people into their areas and use what is supplied there. And if people are happy to be there then that’s their choice isn’t it?
The real question though is whether the ‘net should still be the ‘Wild West’ that it once was. When anyone could post anything they liked however libellous, dangerous, unscrupulous, fraudulent, disgusting or incorrect it was. What are some peoples’ freedoms to share information are crimes to those that create the original work in the first place.
Then of course there is the duty of governments to ‘look after’ their people and sovereignty. Woe betide any government that did not find out about a threat to life and limb because it did not trawl the Internet for forewarnings.
So just like living in the real world the virtual world is being tamed and brought into line with the norms of the cultures of the majority of the users. We may not like that on an individual basis, but surely it is inevitable?
Over time this will probably continue to settle down into an uneasy, unfair and ever changing balance between everyone’s interests, just like the real societies we live in today.
There is also the question of whether Sergey Bryn is more concerned about Google in its competition with Facebook and Twitter than Internet freedoms.