Google pays Web pioneer to bash Apple

Tim Bray isn’t as well-known as Sir Tim Berners-Lee, but the guy has had a leading role in defining the Internet. His name tops the list of editors on the official specs for the Internet’s XML language, the basic building block for all Web pages.

Bray can be entertainingly cranky, but it was off-putting today to read his blog post announcing his new job as an evangelist to software developers for Google’s Android platform. He wasted only a couple of paragraphs before getting to his point: Apple sucks.

“The iPhone vision of the mobile Internet’s future omits controversy, sex, and freedom, but includes strict limits on who can know what and who can say what. It’s a sterile Disney-fied walled garden surrounded by sharp-toothed lawyers. The people who create the apps serve at the landlord’s pleasure and fear his anger.

“I hate it.”

The problem with this post is obvious: He praises the Web as “the first-ever platform without a vendor,” yet Bray has taken a job as spokesman for Google, a vendor. The company sells the Nexus One phone that runs on the open-source Android platform he admires.

Google is also in an escalating business battle with Apple. Google and Apple’s CEOs went from best buddies in August 2006 to open enemies in August 2009, demonstrating a key problem with the vendors Bray doesn’t want to control the Internet. Vendors pledge to do one thing, then go against their word when the winds of cash flow change direction.

And at this point in his career, Bray also knows that whenever techies disagree with someone, they look for the money strings to discredit the other side. He probably thinks he’s taken a lot of guff over the years as a steward of the complicated XML standard, but the Apple fanboy army will now simplify things for him: He’s a shill for Google.

In his first post as a Google employee, Bray brags that he gets to say whatever he wants on his blog. Yet he also admits the post was pre-screened by Google PR. They “didn’t suggest any changes,” he writes. Of course they didn’t, Tim. Apple is a sterile Disney-fied walled garden blah blah lawyers is exactly what they’re paying for.

[Correction: The original version of this article confused some of Tim Berners-Lee’s accomplishments with Tim Bray’s work. Which is sort of like when my hate-mailers confuse Slate and Salon.]