Google’s Brin says Apple is “balkanizing the web”

Unless I and pretty much every other journalist out there extrapolated the original report, it appears that Google co-founder Sergey Brin has called out Apple and Facebook for running closed platforms that, in his mind, are “balkanizing the web”.

Why? Because apps, media and other content served within these ecosystems is not crawlable by the almighty Google search engine. And even though Google’s built an empire on other people’s content, Google’s co-founder calls the latest trends “scary”.

Don’t laugh, Brin actually realized a pattern his role model Steve Jobs laid out two years ago…

In a yesterday’s interview with The Guardian newspaper, Brin, 38, said there were “very powerful forces that have lined up against the open Internet on all sides and around the world”.

The powerful forces he was referring to?

Facebook and Apple, the two Silicon Valley giants that run powerful ecosystem spanning apps, media, user-generated content, devices and more – all outside the reach of Google’s omnipresent tentacles.

There’s a lot to be lost. For example, all the information in apps – that data is not crawlable by web crawlers. You can’t search it.

That’s a rather eerie remark from a guy who built a company on crawling other people’s work – and I ain’t the only one to note the discrepancy.

Also, this line is gold:

I am more worried than I have been in the past. It’s scary.

He’s right.

Google should be worried as hell as people turn to apps at the expense of search.

The trend was first observed by Apple’s late co-founder Steve Jobs who noted during a fireside chat with Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg at the D8 conference back in 2010:

Something really interesting is happening on mobile phones. They’re not mirroring desktops or laptop PCs in that people are not spending their time searching. They’re not doing searching anywhere near as much as they do on PCs. We’ve got all the data – we know this. They’re spending their time in apps.

So, for whatever reason if people wanna find out that restaurant to go to, they’re not going to their search engine typing in ‘Japanese in Palo Alto’, they’re going to Yelp or whatever other app they wanna go to to find out if their airplane’s on time or this or that or this or that.

And I don’t know why it’s different than on PCs – I think I do, but I’m not sure. I think it’s because there never was one place with 200,000 apps where ton of them were free and rest of them were really inexpensive – for PCs!

I think this app thing is an entirely new phenomenon in my lifetime, in your lifetime. So I think people are using apps – what we know they’re using apps – way more than they’re using search

Check out that segment in the clip below.


I’m not sure if Google can fix this issue ever. Their mobile search is useful, fast and optimized for small screens, but turning to dedicated apps in order to find out whatever interests you beats your browser any time.

Even Google’s dedicated search app for iOS and built-in search capabilities in Android are poor substitutes for the nimbleness, focus and comprehensive social sharing features found in dedicated apps.

It gets even worse as mobile search via Google or dedicated apps gets replaced by Siri, a digital secretary exclusive to the iPhone 4S which integrates with Wolfram Alpha, Yelp and other third-parties to serve nicely formatted search results without ads.

Would you share this sentiment or do you think that Google can still figure out a way to penetrate the walled gardens of Facebook and Apple and index all the data inside?

We’re down in the comments.

Image credit: Robert Galbraith | Reuters (via Time Techland)