If someone asks a novo techie about the 'future of internet', he would only dream of seamless possibilities that internet can offer. 'Instagram' founders would probably like to believe in no other power but that of 'internet'. However, this opinion may be in stark contrast to that of one of the world's best known and seasoned techies, Sergey Brin, the co-founder of Google. Sergey thinks that the freedom that internet enjoyed and fueled innovation may be on its way down. It would be ironical if the medium that empowered and liberated many becomes restricted and becomes less accessible. The power lobbies in many forms are looking for that kind of a web, which speaks the language that is in their best interest. Probably, earlier these very lobbies did not realize how a seemingly virtual medium can become a powerhouse that can usurp the privileges that so far rested with them.
Sergey makes a point that the threat to the internet comes from many quarters i.e. from countries like China and Iran, who are bent upon filtering information. While that would be expected, Sergey does not mince words to condemn some of his competitors such as Facebook and Apple, which he alleges are trying to control what, is visible on the internet. Finally, Sergey lashes out at the corporate lobby that represents music companies and Hollywood. He believes that by imposing PIPA and SOPA, music industry may only hurt itself in the long run. Sergey, finds the trend downright 'scary'. He argues that had the internet been as restrictive as it is going to be, they would not have been able to have something called "Google."
One would think that by attacking on the competition, the governments and powerful corporate lobbies, if the Google co-founder is really defending his philosophy or his business. While there may be a strong business interest underlying Sergey's recent remarks on government, peers and corporates, it is really the "Google" episode in the history of internet that has been the most informative and transforming so far. Partial pull out in China, opposing SOPA and PIPA, Google has been 'walking the talk' so to say.
If controlling the internet is what most of the powerful lobbies are attempting to do, it would undoubtedly happen to some extent. The web enabled 'virtual identities' that empowered people to voice their opinion fearlessly not only in dictatorships, but also in democracies are irritants for anyone powerful. While China, Russia and Iran taking note of the blogosphere are trying to clamp down on 'virtual identities' and may be on their way to 'talibanising the internet', how democracies would handle such open source information sharing depends a lot on how mature a democracy is.
While the common internet user may want to fight PIPA, SOPA and virtual identity war, the user may be equally worried about the data that sits with the internet giants such as Google and Facebook. While not many who use these websites may know how their personal data that these websites collect is being used by these companies. The truth is that the companies even in 'democracies' are subservient to the law enforcing agencies. Sergey admits that sometimes they have to give the data which government agencies ask for, despite their best efforts to not share that data. Would we trust Google and Facebook more than our Governments?
That's for us, the users to decide. If there is no turning back from the internet highway, we may either be prepared that the 'privacy' that we took for granted is a thing of the past, or in some way elect the policy makers who respect our 'privacy' despite the overarching presence of internet.
The question is, if the medium that empowered people to come together to fight for their rights and get organised would be able to fight any oppression for its own self and its existence. While Sergey's fears may be very genuine, he may still be undermining the potential of millions of empowered and informed people who would not be prepared to accept a filtered internet. The taste of freedom that internet provided has been endearing. World is a different place now.
Follow Preetam Kaushik on Twitter: www.twitter.com/kaushikpreetam