Once were we
young in the Garden...
The Internet is us, connected.
The Internet is not made of copper wire, glass fiber, radio
waves, or even tubes.
The devices we use to connect to the Internet are not the
Verizon, Comcast, AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, and 中国电信 do not
own the Internet. Facebook, Google, and Amazon are not the Net's
monarchs, nor yet are their minions or algorithms. Not the
governments of the Earth nor their Trade Associations have the consent
of the networked to bestride the Net as sovereigns.
We hold the Internet in common and as unowned.
From us and from what we have built on it does the Internet
derive all its value.
The Net is of us, by us, and for us.
The Internet is ours.
The Internet is nothing and has no purpose.
The Internet is not a thing any more than gravity is a thing.
Both pull us together.
The Internet is no-thing at all. At
its base the Internet is a set of agreements, which the
geeky among us (long may their names be hallowed) call
"protocols," but which we might, in the temper of the day, call
The first among these is: Thy network shall move all packets
closer to their destinations without favor or delay based on
origin, source, content, or intent.
Thus does this First Commandment lay open the Internet to every
idea, application, business, quest, vice, and whatever.
There has not been a tool with such a general purpose since
This means the Internet is not for anything in
particular. Not for social networking, not for documents, not
for advertising, not for business, not for education, not for
porn, not for anything. It is specifically designed for
the Internet for one purpose de-optimizes it for all others.
The Internet like gravity is indiscriminate in its attraction.
It pulls us all together, the virtuous and the wicked alike.
The Net is not content.
There is great content on the Internet. But holy mother of
cheeses, the Internet is not made out of content.
teenager's first poem, the blissful release of a long-kept
secret, a fine sketch drawn by a palsied hand, a blog post in a
regime that hates the sound of its people's voices — none of
these people sat down to write content.
we use the word "content" without quotes? We feel so dirty.
The Net is not a medium.
The Net is not a medium any more than a
conversation is a medium.
On the Net, we are the medium. We are the ones who move messages. We do so every time we post
or retweet, send a link in an email, or post it on a social
Unlike a medium, you and I leave our fingerprints, and sometimes
bite marks, on the messages we pass. We tell people why we're
sending it. We argue with it. We add a joke. We chop off the
part we don't like. We make these messages our own.
Every time we move a message through the Net, it carries a
little bit of ourselves with it.
We only move a message through this "medium" if it matters to us
in one of the infinite ways that humans care about something.
Caring — mattering — is the motive force of the Internet.
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The Web is a Wide World.
In 1991, Tim
Berners-Lee used the Net to create a gift he gave freely to us all: the World Wide Web. Thank you.
Tim created the Web by providing protocols (there's that word
again!) that say how to write a page that can link to any other
page without needing anyone's permission.
Boom. Within ten years we had billions of pages on the Web — a
combined effort on the order of a World War, and yet so benign
that the biggest complaint was the <blink>
The Web is an impossibly large, semi-persistent realm of items
discoverable in their dense inter-connections.
That sounds familiar. Oh, yeah, that's what the world is.
Unlike the real world, every thing and every connection on the
Web was created by some one of us expressing an interest and an
assumption about how those small
pieces go together.
link by a person with something to say is an act of generosity and selflessness, bidding our readers leave our page to see how the
world looks to someone else.
The Web remakes the world in our
collective, emergent image.
But oh how we
have strayed, sisters and brothers...
How did we let conversation get weaponized,
It's important to notice and cherish the talk, the friendship,
the thousand acts of sympathy, kindness, and joy we encounter on
And yet we hear the words "fag" and "nigger" far more on the Net
Demonization of 'them' — people with looks, languages, opinions,
memberships and other groupings we don't understand, like, or
tolerate — is worse than ever on the Internet.
Hatred is present on the Net because it's present in the world,
but the Net makes it easier to express and to hear.
The solution: If we had a solution, we wouldn't be bothering you
with all these damn clues.
We can say this much: Hatred didn't call the Net into being, but
it's holding the Net — and us — back.
Let's at least acknowledge that the Net has values implicit in
it. Human values.
Viewed coldly the Net is just technology. But it's populated by
creatures who are warm with what they care about: their lives,
their friends, the world we share.
The Net offers us a common place where we can be who we are, with others who delight in our
No one owns that place. Everybody
can use it. Anyone can improve
That's what an open Internet is. Wars have been fought for less.
"We agree about everything. I find you fascinating!"
The world is spread out before us like a buffet, and yet we stick
with our steak and potatoes, lamb and hummus, fish and rice, or
We do this in part because conversation requires a common
ground: shared language, interests, norms, understandings.
Without those, it's hard or even impossible to have a
Shared grounds spawn tribes. The Earth's solid ground kept tribes at a
distance, enabling them to develop rich differences. Rejoice!
Tribes give rise to Us vs. Them and war. Rejoice? Not so much.
On the Internet, the distance between tribes starts at zero.
Apparently knowing how to find one another interesting is not as
easy as it looks.
That's a challenge we can meet by being open, sympathetic, and
patient. We can do it, team! We're #1! We're #1!
Being welcoming: There's a value the Net needs to learn from the
best of our real world cultures.
Marketing still makes it harder to talk.
We were right the first
time: Markets are conversations.
A conversation isn't your business tugging at our sleeve to shill a product we don't want to hear about.
if we want to know the truth about your products, we'll find out from one another.
We understand that these conversations are incredibly valuable to you. Too bad. They're ours.
You're welcome to join our conversation, but only if you tell us who you work for, and if you can speak for yourself and as yourself.
Every time you call us "consumers" we feel like cows looking up the word "meat."
Quit fracking our lives to extract data that's none of your business and that your machines misinterpret.
Don't worry: we'll tell you when we're in the market for
something. In our own way. Not yours. Trust us: this
will be good for you.
Ads that sound human but come from your marketing department's
irritable bowels, stain the fabric of the Web.
When personalizing something is creepy, it's a pretty good
indication that you don't understand what it means to be a
Personal is human. Personalized isn't.
Also: Please stop dressing up ads as news in the hope we'll miss
the little disclaimer hanging off their underwear.
When you place a "native
ad," you're eroding not just your own trustworthiness, but
the trustworthiness of this entire new way of being with one
And, by the way, how about calling "native ads" by any of their
real names: "product placement," "advertorial," or "fake fucking news"?
Advertisers got along without being creepy for generations. They
can get along without being creepy on the Net, too.
The Gitmo of the Net.
We all love our shiny apps, even when they're sealed as tight as
a Moon base. But put all the closed apps in the world together
and you have a pile of apps.
Put all the Web pages together and you have a new world.
Web pages are about connecting. Apps are about control.
In the Kingdom of Apps, we are users, not makers.
Every new page makes the Web bigger. Every new link makes the
Every new app gives us something else to do on the bus.
Ouch, a cheap shot!
Hey, "CheapShot" would make a great new app! It's got "in-app
purchase" written all over it.
Gravity's great until it sucks us all into a black hole.
If Facebook is your experience of the Net, then you've strapped
on goggles from a company with a fiduciary responsibility to
keep you from ever taking the goggles off.
Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple are all in the goggles
business. The biggest truth their goggles obscure: These
companies want to hold us the way black holes hold light.
These corporate singularities are dangerous not because they are
evil. Many of them in fact engage in quite remarkably civic
behavior. They should be applauded for that.
But they benefit from the gravity of sociality: The "network
effect" is that thing where lots of people use something because
lots of people use it.
Where there aren't competitive alternatives, we need to be
hypervigilant to remind these Titans of the Valley of the webby
values that first inspired them.
And then we need to honor the sound we make when any of us
bravely pulls away from them. It's something between the noise
of a rocket leaving the launchpad and the rip of Velcro as you
undo a too-tight garment.
Privacy in an age of spies.
government, you win. You've got our data. Now, what can we do to
make sure you use it against Them and not against Us? In fact,
can you tell the difference?
If we want our government to back off, the deal has to be that
if — when — the next attack comes, we can't complain that they
should have surveilled us harder.
A trade isn't fair trade if we don't know what we're giving up.
Do you hear that, Security for Privacy trade-off?
With a probability approaching absolute certainty, we are going
to be sorry we didn't do more to keep data out of the hands of
our governments and corporate overlords.
Privacy in an age of weasels.
Personal privacy is fine for those who want it. And we all draw
the line somewhere.
Q: How long do you think it took for pre-Web culture to figure
out where to draw the lines? A: How old is culture?
Web is barely out of its teens.
We are at the beginning, not the end, of the
We can only figure out what it means to be private once we
figure out what it means to be social. And we've barely begun to
The economic and political incentives to de-pants and
up-skirt us are so strong that we'd be wise to invest in
Hackers got us into this and hackers will have to get us out.
build and to plant
Kumbiyah sounds surprisingly good in an echo chamber.
The Internet is astounding.
The Web is awesome. You are beautiful. Connect us all and we are
more crazily amazing than Jennifer Lawrence. These are simple
So let's not minimize what the Net has done in the past twenty
There's so much more music in the world.
We now make most of our culture for ourselves, with occasional
forays to a movie theater for something blowy-uppy and a $9
nickel-bag of popcorn.
Politicians now have to explain their positions far beyond the
one-page "position papers" they used to mimeograph.
Anything you don't understand you can find an explanation for.
And a discussion about. And an argument over. Is it not clear
how awesome that is?
You want to know what to buy? The business that makes an object
of desire is now the worst source of information about it. The
best source is all of us.
You want to listen in on a college-level course about something
you're interested in? Google
your topic. Take your pick. For free.
Yeah, the Internet hasn't solved all the world's problems.
That's why the Almighty hath given us asses: that we might get
off of them.
Internet naysayers keep us honest. We just like 'em better when
they aren't ingrates.
A pocket full of homilies.
We were going to tell you how to fix the Internet in four easy
steps, but the only one we could remember is the last one: profit.
So instead, here are some random thoughts…
We should be supporting the artists and creators who bring us
delight or ease our burdens.
We should have the courage to ask
for the help we need.
We have a culture that defaults to sharing and laws that default
to copyright. Copyright has its place, but when in doubt, open
In the wrong context, everyone's an a-hole. (Us, too. But you
already knew that.) So if you're inviting people over for a swim, post the rules. All trolls, out of the pool!
If the conversations at your site are going badly, it's your
Wherever the conversation is happening, no one owes you a
response, no matter how reasonable your argument or how winning
Support the businesses that truly "get" the Web. You'll
recognize them not just because they sound like us, but because
they're on our side.
Sure, apps offer a nice experience. But the Web is about links
that constantly reach out, connecting us without end. For lives
and ideas, completion is death. Choose life.
Anger is a license to be stupid. The Internet's streets are
already crowded with licensed drivers.
Live the values you want the Internet to promote.
If you've been talking for a while, shut up. (We will very
Being together: the cause of and solution to every problem.
If we have focused on the role of the People of the Net —
you and us — in the Internet's fall from grace, that's because
we still have the faith we came in with.
We, the People of the Net, cannot fathom how much we can do
together because we are far from finished inventing how to be
The Internet has liberated an ancient force — the gravity
drawing us together.
The gravity of connection is love.
Long live the open Internet.
Long may we have our Internet to love.