Author Archives: Katie Barrett

How to Make a Difference Right Now Without Leaving the House

Our staff has been working from home for weeks now, keeping the Internet Archive up and running from a variety of remote locations. In the midst of all our video calls, email chains, and team chats, one theme keeps reoccurring: gratitude. We’re grateful for all of the donors who give so generously to us time and time again; we’re grateful for all of the teachers who write us with their suggestions and kind words of encouragement; we’re grateful for all of the Dead Heads who upload live shows and keep us staff entertained; we’re grateful for our partners and colleagues.

Most importantly, we are grateful that our community supports us and helps us grow. We are grateful for you

In the past few months we’ve received countless messages from our community asking “How can I help?”. People everywhere are wondering how, during these turbulent times, they can make a positive impact on the world without leaving their homes. Some folks have offered to make a donation in support of what we do, and we’re always grateful for the help! But for those who might not be able to donate right now, or who already have and wish they could do more, there are a few different ways you can lend a hand. Here are some easy ways to help the Internet Archive if you have limited time, money, mobility, or energy:

Matching Gifts
Have you donated to the Internet Archive recently? Help your gift go even further! Many companies offer matching gift programs as part of their benefits packages to employees. These organizations may be willing to double or even triple the value of your charitable gifts. Have you made a donation this year that might qualify? Curious to see if your company provides this benefit? To find out, visit our Matching Gifts page and enter your company’s name in the search box. 

Better World Books Roundup Program
There’s nothing like a good book to whisk you off and help wile away the hours while stuck inside. When you buy a book from Better World Books, you have the option of rounding up your purchase to support the Internet Archive. Since we launched this partnership back in December 2019, these roundups have resulted in $11,000 for the Internet Archive! A little bit certainly goes a long way. To our friends at Better World Books and to all who have ‘rounded up’ 10 cents here and 45 cents there, thank you. To wander their digital bookshelves for your next book purchase, visit the Better World Books website.

Amazon Smile
Fresh veggies, canned goods, dish soap, the elusive toilet paper…many people are doing most of their shopping these days using delivery apps like Amazon. Did you know that Amazon Smile gives back .5% of every purchase you make to the participating non-profit of your choice?  If you find yourself hitting their “virtual checkout” button more often, make sure you do so with Amazon Smile! And if you decide to make the Internet Archive the beneficiary, we’d be ever so grateful. To sign up and support us, visit: https://smile.amazon.com/ch/94-3242767

BAT Brave Attention Tokens
We love Brave, the browser that lets you tip the websites you love and has the Wayback Machine natively built right into their browser! If you are a Brave Browser user and would like to learn more about its tipping program (and to throw a couple of nickels our way) you can do so here: https://support.brave.com/hc/en-us/articles/360021123971-How-do-I-tip-websites-and-Content-Creators-in-Brave-Rewards-

Donate Books
Looking for a forever home for all those books that no longer spark joy? Look no further than Better World Books. Every book they receive will be resold, donated, recycled… or digitized and added to the Internet Archive, so that readers everywhere can enjoy it. All books (in good condition) are welcome! Visit https://www.betterworldbooks.com/go/donate to find a dropbox location near you. 

Host a Facebook Fundraiser
Is your birthday coming up? Or looking for a good way to spread the word about the Internet Archive to friends and family? Why not try out hosting a fundraiser on Facebook! To learn more, visit https://www.facebook.com/fund/internetnetarchive/

Spread the Word!
One simple way to support us is by using the Archive and spreading the word to your friends and family. We don’t have an advertising or marketing team, so we definitely appreciate all the help we can get with promotion. If the Wayback Machine saved your website or you found a cool collection that made your day, tell a friend! You can also follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. We’ve got a once a month newsletter you can join, and make sure to bookmark our blog!

Thanks for helping us out! Your support helps journalists, teachers, researchers, high school students, kindergarteners, PhD candidates, genealogists, old time radio enthusiasts, Dead Heads, podcasters, developers, and readers of all ages get the information they want, the information they need, and the information they love. We thank you for all your contributions, big and small. Every little bit (and byte) counts. 

Money and Utopia at the Internet Archive

Guest blog post by Author Finn Brunton

The history of money is history itself. From the accounting and contracts of Sumerian cuneiform tablets (the earliest written language) to buried coin hoards, stamps and letters of credit, Incan khipu knot-counts, or the maps and censuses written in the service of levying taxes, part of the great archive from which history is made are the records of cash, debt, credit, assets, and coinage. 

A lot of that archive is durable: cowry shells, wooden tally-sticks, clay tablets, coins buried under floorboards or in the hulls of sunken ships. (/Rai/ stones, the indigenous currency of the Micronesian island of Yap, will outlast us all.) And a lot of that archive gives people their own incentives to preserve and maintain: saving precious metals, stock certificates, banknotes, deeds, or the proofs of kinship debts and IOUs. But most of the money transacted now is electronic. How could you write the history of digital cash?

That’s where the Internet Archive comes in. About eight years ago I began work in earnest on a book about the prehistory of cryptocurrency: the technologies, visions, subcultures, and fantasies that drove the project of building digital objects that could work like cash — anonymous transactions with money that could prove itself, as a dollar does, rather than needing the identities of the transactors, like a credit card. 

Digging up this history meant a crash course in the history of money itself — and, as strange as this might sound, the /history/ of the history of money, how people thought about what money meant and how to read it at different times, with collections like the Newman Numismatic Portal and documents like the playwright and poet Joseph Addison’s marvelous 1726 “Dialogues Upon the Usefulness of Ancient Medals,” a kind of dreamy, melancholy short story about coins, poetry, and the legacies of the past.

It also meant leaning about various utopian projects which used new forms of money and economic schemes to try to change society — these were often led the sort of ahead-of-their-time, or out-of-this-world, characters whose archives are, to put it gently, difficult to find. Not for the Internet Archive, though: the documents of the strange project of American Technocracy in the 1930s — like an autobiography written from the perspective of the economic price system! — are, through phone, tablet, or mouse, at one’s fingertips.

The book, focused as it is on small circles of monetary and cryptographic utopians in the Bay Area of California from the 1970s through the arrival of Bitcoin, also required study of the subcultures, publications, and movements within which my subjects crossed paths and dreamed big dreams — venues like Mondo 2000 (individual issues are incredibly rich time capsules and the people around Ted Nelson’s amazing Xanadu. But, of course, many of these people were among the first to leave print behind and begin writing and publishing primarily online — especially on the fragile, ephemeral Web. Which is where the Wayback Machine came in! Here crucial developments that would otherwise be lost were preserved, like Hal Finney’s “reusable proof of work” token system — an important step toward what would become Bitcoin and subsequent cryptocurrency and blockchain systems.

The book that I built using all these archives was written over the course of several years in many places, from the back seat of a car in the Colorado Rockies to a family farm in rural Quebec, a laundromat in New Hampshire, and a cabin in Finland, but anywhere that I could get the faintest wireless signal, these archives — and many more — were with me. (As a user of the search engine DuckDuckGo, “!archive” and “!wayback” are my favorite, reflexive search operators.) Some of the earliest discussions of computerized, digital money happened in the context of dreams of what networked computing could be: the world’s libraries and archives, across all media, on your “home information terminal,” available at a gesture. With the Internet Archive, that utopia is at last being realized.

BOOK LAUNCH EVENT
Join us Tuesday, June 25th at the Internet Archive in San Francisco for the book launch of DIGITAL CASH: The Unknown History of the Anarchists, Utopians, and Technologists Who Created Cryptocurrency by Finn Brunton.

Date: Tuesday, June 25th 2019
Time: Doors Open: 6:00 PM
In Conversation with Finn Brunton: 6:30 – 7:45 PM
Reception: 7:45 – 9:00 PM
Light refreshments will be served. Finn Brunton’s book will also be available for purchase and signing during the reception, courtesy of The Green Arcade bookstore.
Where: Internet Archive
300 Funston Ave
SF, CA 94118

About the Author: Finn Brunton (finnb.net) is the author of Spam: A Shadow History of the Internet (2013) and Digital Cash: The Unknown History of the Anarchists, Technologists, and Utopians Who Created Cryptocurrency (2019), and the co-author of Obfuscation: A User’s Guide for Privacy and Protest (2015) and Communication (2019). He teaches in Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University.

Have You Played Atari Today?

Guest blog post by Kevin Savetz

When I was a kid I fell in love with computers. Specifically, I fell in love with the Atari 800, one of the first microcomputers. I wanted to know everything about it: how it worked, how to program it, about the things you could do with it. I was hungry for information about that computer, about all computers, really. I read about them constantly. With every trip to the grocery store, I bugged my parents to buy me computer magazines. With every trip to the library, I headed straight to the Dewey 000s, the computer science section. I sent away for all the free information I could get, in the form of brochures and catalogs that came in the mail. I stored the reading material and the knowledge as long as I could.

Although it’s been more than a few years, that Atari computer remains one of my favorite things, as is finding information about it. So not much has changed there. What has changed is that I can use Internet Archive to share that information with other “retrocomputer” enthusiasts, historians, researchers, and students. The amount of information that’s been archived (by myself and many others) about this niche within a niche of computer history would have boggled kid me. Heck, it boggles adult me.

Here’s the first version of the operator’s manual for the Atari 800 computer, printed in 1979. Only 200 copies were printed. It includes photos of pre-production versions of the hardware and screenshots that don’t match what the released version of the computer would actually display. As a historical artifact, it gives insight into the process of creating a microcomputer and the decisions that the hardware and software engineers were working though. It’s easy to open a couple of windows to do a side-by-side comparison with the more common released version, from later that same year, which trades some of the quaintness for accuracy.

You can also delve into development notebooks and design documents, which can provide unique perspective into how hardware and software was built. Joe Decuir, one of the designers of the Atari 800, saved his engineering notebooks from his time at Atari, and allowed me to scan them. His 1977 and 1978 engineering notebook include design concepts down to the chip level, feasibility studies, meeting notes, and teardowns of competing products.

Atari game programmer Gray Chang lent me his handwritten development notebook for his computer game Claim Jumper, which was published by Synapse Software in 1982. I was able to scan the notebook and upload it to Internet Archive. Claim Jumper is an adorable game about collecting gold nuggets in the Old West. The notebook, complete with painstakingly crafted programming code, flowcharts, hand-drawn graphics, and a handwritten draft of the manual, is a reminder of a time when one person could single-handedly create every aspect of a computer game. Many of today’s games are built by teams of dozens or hundreds of coders, artists, musicians, and writers. Gray’s notebook is testament to the fact once upon a time, it took a team of one to create a great video game.

If poring over old scribbled notebooks doesn’t whet your appetite for the history of old computers, perhaps a movie featuring children falling in love with them will. “The Magic Room” is a movie about Atari computer camps: summer computer camps for kids. Shot in 1982, the film was commissioned by Atari as a sort of documentary, sort of extended advertisement for its camp program. The title cards were made, naturally, on Atari computers. The kids are stunning in their pre-teen awkwardness. There are scenes of children riding horses at golden hour, playing basketball, and of course engaged with their Atari computers. Very little game playing is shown. These kids are programming, solving problems, thinking, and learning.

In fact, everything produced for Atari Computer Camp is hosted at Internet Archive. The application, the acceptance letter, the entire curriculum of programming classes, the instructor guide, and all the software that was available to campers. Everything. It’s far too late to attend an Atari summer camp but, using Internet Archive, you can read and do everything that those campers could do. (Except the horses and basketball.)

There’s more, of course, probably even enough information about Atari computers to keep kid-me satisfied. A curated “best of” selection of Atari-related material is in the Archive’s Atari Historical Documents collection. The Atari Computer Books collection has scans of 300 books, definitely more than my hometown library’s 000 shelf. And there’s entire runs of old computer magazines, all readable and searchable in your browser.

I’m grateful to Internet Archive for allowing me to share my passion for these computers by sharing the documents that I find with the rest of the world. And I’m grateful that the retrocomputing nerds in the rest of the world can use Internet Archive to share what they find with me.

===

Kevin Savetz (twitter, Internet Archive) is an Atari historian and podcaster. He is co-host of Antic: The Atari 8-Bit Podcast, where he has published more than 350 oral history interviews with people involved with the early home computer industry; and Eaten By A Grue, a podcast about Infocom text adventure games.

The Mueller Report, Searchable and Accessible on the Archive

Last week, the American public finally got its hands on the Mueller report–more than 400 pages, much of the text redacted, detailing the special counsel’s much anticipated findings.  Within minutes of that release, many copies of that file were uploaded to the Internet Archive. On Amazon, other outfits were charging $7.99 for an EPUB of the report. At the Internet Archive we made the Mueller Report searchable and downloadable. And free.

The government initially released the document in a PDF format which renders it like an image, impossible to search. When PDF files are uploaded to the Archive, we automatically run them through an Optical Character Recognition (OCR) process. This turns those images into text, making it much easier to move between sections and search for specific words or phrases. This allows journalists and the public to more easily parse through volumes of information contained within these massive documents. It also has the added benefit of making the text EPUB friendly, which makes it easily viewable on mobile devices, and accessible to our low-vision communities.

We have the tools that empower people to share and discover public domain documents like government reports. Thanks to our community members who moved quickly to upload copies, the world can now search, share, download or read a mobile-friendly version of the Mueller report for free.

For a free copy of the OCR’d version of the Mueller Report, visit: https://archive.org/details/mueller_report_20190422


A “Brave” New World

Micropayments on their own can seem pretty insignificant. A half a penny here. An eighth of a token there. Yet slowly and consistently, they accumulate over time. And they can catch you by surprise.

A couple of years back, the Internet Archive signed up to be a Brave ‘creator’. Brave, the web browser that prides itself not only on its speed but also its commitment to privacy and security, launched a program where anyone with a website can get paid by its users. So if you install Brave and spend time on archive.org, you can express thanks in the form of a tiny tip, right there in your browser.

Two years ago, this seemed like a fun experiment. A way for the Internet Archive to support a like-minded tech organization, and at the very least, try out something new. This experiment, turns out, has amounted to something far more significant. And worth sharing.

Last week, we hooked up our cryptocurrency wallet to our Brave creator account. Those tiny micropayments that Brave users had tossed into the Archive’s virtual tip jar had accumulated, growing into more than 9k Brave Attention Tokens (BAT) – the equivalent of $2500 USD!

This was an unexpected windfall. It was also proof that the current web, the one that’s driven by ads that know our every move, doesn’t have to be the web of the future. There could be a better way that’s secure, private and supported by its citizenry. To all of our Brave browser tippers, we thank you. Every little bit makes a big difference.

If you use Brave and would like to tip the sites you love, learn how here.

If you publish content on the internet, here’s how to become a Brave creator.

Thank you, Brave, for your push into micropayments to find alternatives to advertisements. And thank you for including Internet Archive early in your program in such a way that we have earned $2,500.


The World As They Saw It

Guest blog post by professor Tom Gally

As international travel becomes cheaper and easier, many of the tourists who now swamp Venice, Barcelona, San Francisco, and Hong Kong are visiting a foreign country for the first time. Surprised, fascinated, and sometimes repulsed by what they see, they eagerly post to social media their photos and impressions. Such reports are the source of much of what we believe, consciously or unconsciously, about places we haven’t visited yet.

Centuries ago, too, travelers were eager to tell their stories to people back home, and those stories helped to create the images and stereotypes that were formed about other lands and people. Many of those stories can be found in the thousands of travel books that are available in the text collections of the Internet Archive.

Here is a description, from a book published in London in 1701, of an Englishman’s first impressions of Paris:

Having enter’d this famous City, we were set down near the Louvre, and drop’d in first at a paltry House where the Fellow call’d himself in his Sign Le grand Voyageru, (or great Traveller) and pretended to Speak all Languages, but could scarce speak his own. Finding here but indifferent Accommodation, our Man provided us a Lodging in a House, where liv’d no less than two and twenty Families; thither we were carried in Sedans with Wheels, drag’d along by one Man, no Hackney-Coaches being then to be had. This was on a Sunday, and I was not a little surpriz’d to see Violins about the Streets, and People singing and dancing every where, as if they had been mad.

Though the language is archaic, the sentiments—bragging about visiting a famous city, complaining about accommodation and transportation, frowning at the local customs—would not be out of place in a tourist’s Facebook post today.

“View of the suburbs of a Chinese city”

In the early 1790s, King George III sent an envoy to the Emperor of China. Though the diplomatic mission was unsuccessful in its main purpose—to obtain trade concessions for Britain similar to those granted to the Portuguese and Dutch—it yielded a three-volume official report, by George Staunton, that contains a fascinating account of the long voyage halfway around the world (volume 1) and of the Chinese empire as seen through British eyes (volume 2). The report also includes many carefully engraved illustrations of sights in China—the Instagram posts of the era (volume 3).

“Descending the rapids of the Madeira”

Other travelers’ accounts I’ve dipped into include Travels from St. Petersburg, in Russia, to Diverse Parts of Asia by John Bell (1763) (volume 1, volume 2), Travels in America by George Howard (1851) (here), and a large compendium titled Cyclopædia of Modern Travel by Bayard Taylor (1856) (here).

Lately, I’ve also been exploring the Internet Archive’s rich collection of books written by British and American visitors to Japan in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Until the 1850s, Japan had been shut off nearly completely from the rest of the world for more than two hundred years, and people elsewhere were eager to learn about the mysterious country. Many sailors, traders, diplomats, missionaries, journalists, and individual travelers who were able to visit Japan wrote later about their experiences, and I’ve compiled a list of more than 240 of their books.

I myself moved to Japan in 1983 and have lived here ever since. As I read now the accounts of Westerners who arrived at Nagasaki or Yokohama in 1858 or 1869 or 1880 or 1905, I recall my own vivid first impressions of the country 36 years ago. While there are many differences—they rode rickshas, I took commuter trains; those Victorians were shocked by the casual nudity, this Californian was surprised by how formally people dressed—our experiences were also similar in many ways. And those who, as I did, stayed for more than a year or two and learned the language gradually came to see how their initial assessments had also been incomplete and sometimes biased.

“Tokio”

Several times a week, I pass through the bustling Shibuya crossing in Tokyo, and in recent years I’ve noticed more and more foreign tourists taking pictures of that famous location. After reading travelers’ accounts from more than a century ago, I increasingly wonder how tourists today are perceiving this country that is now my home, and I speculate how people elsewhere, seeing those photos posted to Instagram and Twitter and Weibo, will come to view that intersection and this country. I never would have thought deeply about this, and I certainly wouldn’t be contrasting our experiences with those of 19th-century visitors, if it weren’t for the great collections of books that the Internet Archive makes available for anyone in the world to read.

Tom Gally was born in Pasadena, California, in 1957. Since moving to Japan, he has worked as a translator, teacher, lexicographer, and writer. He is now a professor in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Tokyo and has compiled a book of excerpts from travelers’ accounts to be titled Japan As They Saw It. The book can be read and downloaded at the book’s website.

Now you can donate your favorite altcoin to the Internet Archive

Got Clams? Maybe some extra XRP lying around? Is your Litecoin portfolio flush and you’d like to share the love? Now you can! Thanks to Changelly, the Internet Archive is able to accept donations in a whole new variety of altcoins. Our crypto-donations page recently got a fresh, new look, and now with the Changelly button, we can accept more than 100 forms of cryptocurrency.

How It Works
If you’d like to support us in Dogecoin, or Dash or one of the many other altcoins supported, simply click the Changelly ‘Pay with altcoins’ button, choose the currency you’d like to donate, and Changelly magically converts it to the equivalent value in Bitcoin sending it to the Internet Archive’s public Bitcoin address.

We still happily accept donations in Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum and Zcash via the Internet Archive’s public addresses on the cryptocurrency contributions page.

Why we care about crypto
The Internet Archive has been a long-time participant in cryptocurrencies — we have been accepting Bitcoin donations since 2011, and our staff receives year-end bonuses and some salary in BTC. It’s been amazing to see crypto donations grow enormously year after year…Many thanks to the Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Zcash communities. We hope the Changelly button will help bring to light and further support the various tokens in the ecosystem.

With ShapeShift, Now You Can Donate Your Favorite Altcoin

For all of our donors who prefer Clams to Monero, Ripple over Dash, Dogecoin over Litecoin or vice versa, do we have good news for each and every one of you. The Internet Archive now accepts donations in them all!

We’ve completely redesigned our cryptocurrency donations page to include a ShapeShift ‘Shifty button’ allowing you to choose from over 30 tokens and altcoins and easily make a contribution.

With ShapeShift, you can make a donation in your favorite coin and it magically converts it to the equivalent value in Bitcoin, sending it to the Internet Archive’s public Bitcoin address.

Once you select your coin of choice, ShapeShift will provide a QR code / target address to send your donation. You can set a return coin address to get a refund in the unlikely event that the transaction gets interrupted, and enter your email address to receive a summary of your shifted donation. ShapeShift updates its token choices often, so if your favorite coin isn’t listed, it very well could be soon.

We still happily accept donations in Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum and Zcash – the addresses and QR codes are listed on the newly redesigned site.

As a long-time supporter of the cryptocurrency movement — our community has been donating Bitcoin since 2011 — we have long believed that philanthropy can and should have a place in this evolving peer-to-peer monetary system. We have done what we can to support the evolution of decentralized technologies, and we are thrilled this community is supporting us in the same way. Many thanks to the Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Zcash communities. We hope this Shifty button will help bring to light and further support the various tokens in the ecosystem.

REGISTER NOW: Decentralized Web Summit 2018

There’s a special feeling at the start of something new. Excitement.  Hope. That glimmer of what might be.

We felt it in 2016 at the Internet Archive’s first Decentralized Web Summit.  Two years later, we’re gathering to celebrate the working code that hints at the true potential of the Decentralized Web. Register here to secure your spot at the Decentralized Web Summit: Global Visions/Working Code, July 31-August 2.  You’ll be joining the founders and builders of decentralized protocols from around the world, along with lawyers, human rights activists, artists, and journalists. We’re all united by one thing—the desire for a Web that is more private, secure, censorship-resistant, and open—this time for good.

Get Your Tickets Here

WHAT TO EXPECT:  We’ll kick off on Tuesday night, July 31st at 6 PM with an Opening Party at the Internet Archive in San Francisco. It’s your chance to learn first-hand about the latest Dweb technologies at our Science Fair in one-on-one conversations with the top builders in the field.

Tim Berners-Lee (left) and Cory Doctorow debate at the 2016 Decentralized Web Summit.

Then, Wednesday-Thursday, August 1-2nd, 8 AM-6 PM, we move to the historic San Francisco Mint for a multi-track Summit with hands-on workshops, talks, art/tech installations, and events exploring how law, policy and markets are impacting the technology. Joseph Poon, founder of the Lightning Network, will unveil a game-changing new crypto-economic experiment that he calls “The Abundance Game.” Meanwhile, science fiction writer, Cory Doctorow, explains how “Big Tech’s Problem is Big, Not Tech,” and experts in governance, including Primavera De Filippi of Harvard’s Berkman-Klein Center, explore ways to ensure that decentralized platforms remain decentralized.  At the same time, artist Taeyoon Choi will be leading workshops on the “Distributed Web of Care,” (DWC).  Choi writes: “Through collaborations with artists, engineers, social scientists and community organizers, DWC imagines distributed networks as a form of interdependence and stewardship, in critical opposition to the networks that dominate the world today.”

Kung Fu master, Young Wong, will teach Chi Gong during the DWeb Summit 2018.

At the Decentralized Web Summit we aim to exercise your head, hands and heart. Stay grounded each lunchtime with Chi Gong (Qigong) lessons in the courtyard with Kung Fu master, Young Wong. Or let the folks from Toronto Mesh teach you to run decentralized protocols Secure Scuttlebutt and the Interplanetary File System (IPFS) on a mesh network of Raspberry Pis—a great example of how to share information in low- or no-bandwidth areas.

Not exhausted yet? On Friday, August 3 at 10 AM-5 PM, we’ll open the doors of the Internet Archive, inviting the first 100 ticketed guests for lunch and a tour. We’ll have tables set up for informal collaborating and hacking. Or take your lunch outside and enjoy just hanging out with pioneers of the internet and Worldwide Web.

August weather? You never know what it will be like at the Internet Archive in San Francisco’s Richmond District in the summer.

Organized by the Internet Archive, the goal of this unique conference is to align the values of the Open Web with principles of decentralization. To bring together global communities to co-create infrastructure and tools we can trust. To write code that supports privacy, security, self-sovereign data and digital memory. All while remembering this: the Web has always been fun!

We recommend you get your tickets now, while they last.

The Future of Civil Discourse – Four Scenarios Imagined


by Katie Barrett and Lawrence Wilkinson

Looking 10 years ahead, try and imagine a world without trust, but rife with monopolies. Walled gardens of tech giants solidify. The DOW and Nasdaq are up, civic engagement is low, surveillance is ubiquitous. In this world, do users trust publishing on the open Internet? What does this mean for news organizations? Will there be more country-based firewalls?

Now imagine a completely different world where antitrust laws have ensured many tech winners. Equal access to knowledge is attainable. Open Source tech flourishes. Risk-­taking is on the rise. Workforces become distributed across borders. Are civil liberties organizations as needed? Do people still value privacy? Is there enough coherence to solve big issues like climate change?

Over the last several years, political and cultural changes have caught many unaware and unprepared. As a bulwark against such unpreparedness, leaders from Wikimedia Foundation, Mozilla, Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Internet Archive gathered together to discuss the future of the ‘Open World.’ What role should each organization play in fostering healthy civil discourse? Are there areas for collaboration?

The four organizations joined on a yearlong journey through a process known as Scenario Planning. Led by Lawrence Wilkinson, Chairman of Heminge & Condell, the process asked participants to construct a set of very different, yet plausible stories about what the future might hold. With civil discourse as our North Star, we crafted strategies that responded both to opportunities and risks.

Questions which began as open ended and abstract led to future modalities that were distinct and concrete. Exploring a future possibility led to some clear ideas about what hurdles an open Internet may face. If, for instance, a country becomes less democratic, with weakened journalistic institutions, transparency will suffer. If economic hegemony shifts to a different part of the world, the cultural imperatives of social media giants will likely shift as well. In this spirit, the four orgs found areas for collaboration while also uncovering distinctive gaps in our ability to evolve in a changing world.

The beauty of this experience is that it offered each individual organization the time and space to do some deep, long-term thinking about its roles in civil society. It also deepened our personal relationships, which seems just as valuable as the process itself.

The Internet Archive, specifically, has emerged with a sharper vision and new projects on the horizon to foster healthy civil discourse:

  • Help make the web more useful and reliable:
    • Weave the best of human thought into the web. An Open Libraries project would bring millions of books from public libraries’ collections to billions of people.
    • Work with Wikipedia to fix more broken outbound links using the Wayback Machine and make footnotes link straight into ebooks and journals.
  • Take a leadership role in the evolving Decentralized Web
  • Bring permanence and light to the words of politicians and government that are being disappeared through the:
  • Increase our operational security

How to Build Scenarios — General Overview
To get a better sense of the overall Scenario Planning process, click here.

Scenario Planning for the future of civil discourse
To view a summary of the scenarios and general implications created by the Internet Archive, Wikimedia Foundation, Mozilla and EFF, click here.

How to Build Scenarios at Your Organization
If you have questions or an interest in applying the scenarios in your own organization, you can contact Heminge & Condell here.