Anyone can set up a web site and point to all the other web pages. Everyone is a publisher. Everyone is a peer. That’s why it’s called a web. Individuals knit themselves together by linking to one another. Everyone tends his or her own little epistemological garden, growing ideas from seed and sharing them with anyone who comes by.

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Making a shift to a more democratized internet won’t be easy. Once you start to rally your energies toward a more open future, you will be shocked by the forces arrayed against you; the intransigence of the people who want to buy and sell your information; the amorality of the hackers who play with millions of people for sport; the cold, endemic corruption of intellectual property and patent law; the infinite protections for copyright. It can get a person down.

We could still live in that decentralized world, if we wanted to. Despite the rise of the all-seeing database, the core of the internet remains profoundly open. I can host it from my apartment, on a machine that costs $35. You can link to me from your site. Just the two of us. This is an age of great enterprise, no time to think small. Yet whatever enormous explosion tears through our digital world next will come from exactly that: an individual recognizing the potential of the small, where others see only scale.

Paul Ford
Laurel Schwulst
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