Author Archives: francessawyer

Remembering the First DWeb Camp, July 2019

By Frances Sawyer

Kanyon Sayers-Roods welcomes participants to camp.

With a sharp yip and a deep ‘Ohhh’ cried into the Pacific evening sky, Kanyon “Coyote Woman” Sayers-Roods welcomed hackers, activists, artists, policymakers, and engineers from around the globe to the California Coast, traditional land of the Ohlone & Amah Mutsun peoples, to share in a week of learning, building, and dreaming a better web. 

Held on a farm near Pescadero, California, the first ever DWeb Camp brought together more than 375 campers from six continents to workshop, relax, build, and strengthen the community working on the decentralized web. The camp followed in the footsteps of the 2016 Locking the Web Open Summit at the Internet Archive and the 2018 Decentralized Web Summit held at the S.F. Mint, but with a new spin: what would happen if we brought this deep conversation about technology to a sublime, wind-whipped farm on the coast and over the course of a week, built a temporary, remote, networked community of ideas and ambition in nature? 

It was a week of radical creation! A little bit Burning Man, a little bit Chaos Communication Camp, DWeb Camp proved raucous, thoughtful, experimental and energizing for all involved. 

Here are a few highlights from the week: 

The Mushroom Farm 

Volunteers build the tents, creating a small village in only a few days.

After scouting a half dozen sites, Wendy Hanamura, leader of the DWeb organizing team had a feeling: The Mushroom Farm, could become the perfect place  for this gathering. It didn’t matter that the farm didn’t quite yet have strong Internet connectivity. Or that the bathrooms weren’t scaled to 300 people’s needs. The philosophy and ethos of the farm and its stewards were absolutely aligned with those articulated by decentralized organizers — it was time for our communities to grow together to help foster deep connections within ourselves, our communities and the planet.

A few miles south of Pescadero, in sight of the waves on Gazos Beach, The Mushroom Farm was once home to one of Campbell Soup’s industrial mushroom farms — producing 70,000 pounds of mushrooms per week. More than a decade ago, it was sold in a distressed asset sale and, in the intervening years, its 700+ acres have been nurtured back to life to create a gathering place for disruptive thinking on renewable energy, regenerative agriculture, technology, and wellness. 

Nadeem Kassam, owner and visionary behind The Mushroom Farm, joins the volunteer crew for a delicious picnic dinner made from local produce.

Home to native, perennial grasslands, an experimental vegetable and hemp farm, old warehouses filled with redwood beams, and more, as a site, it channels a strain of futurism that has long been cultivated on the western edge of the U.S. For DWeb Camp participants, it proved the ideal setting to encourage long-form thinking, open dialogue, and reflection on the evolution and design of technology. 

The Big Build: By Community, For Community 

Katie Barrett, Wendy Hannamura, Ben Hanna, and Joanna Antigone Nastos (camp names: Mama Badger, DreamWeaver, Twizz, and Miss. Frizzle) smiling at the beginning of a new camp day.

Four days before most participants arrived, a crew of 50+ volunteers descended upon The Mushroom Farm to muck the bathrooms, set up three sprawling tent sites, paint signs, prep food, build the camp’s shared spaces, and put the final touches on the site before the crowds arrived. 

These volunteers provided the final push after months of preparations by The Mushroom Farm, DWeb organizers, experts from Custom Camps and the Internet Archive.

Together, they created an ethos of openness and respect, articulated in the DWeb Camp Pillars

These pillars were affirmed in those first days as participants from across the globe —old friends and those who had never met— forged deep connections in the process of building the camp. From posting friendly warning signs about local ticks and poison oak crafted by Companion-Platform designers Calvin Rocchio and Lexi Visco to working with the chefs (including several Esalon kitchen alums) to enlarge the outdoor kitchen, volunteers went to work to establish a sense of community that would last throughout the week. Each night, the volunteer crew gathered for a hearty meal of local produce and cheeses, getting excited to welcome the hundreds of newcomers later in the week. 

Installing the Mesh 

Against this stunning natural backdrop, what’s the first thing the builders of the next web did? They built a mesh network, of course! 

Jenny Ryan of People’s Open Network helps make buttons to identify camp volunteers.

Several weeks before the crowds arrived, Network Coordinator, Benedict Lau of Toronto Mesh and an army of volunteers, many from People’s Open Network, scampered across the Mushroom Farm from the Mesh Hall to the campsites with zip ties, cables, routers, and wireless radios to build a working mesh network throughout the camp footprint. With 6 nodes across camp, this network allowed for full peer-to-peer connectivity for camp participants. 

This early team of volunteers laid the groundwork of six nodes for the system and throughout the week, construction continued as more users were added with each arriving device. As participants arrived, they were given an introduction to the network, joined with the open credentials, then given the tools to teach others about its operation by our team of Network Stewards. On the final day of workshops, the team led the installation of the 7th node, completing the “Mesh Playground.” Soon, all were up and running full speed ahead, linking phones and laptops across the camp to Raspberry Pis in the Mesh Hall, running decentralized apps such as a Matrix Homeserver, and opening a Secure Scuttlebutt Pub on the local network — a decentralized web come to life! 

Soon, supporting the mesh and teaching people about their own experiences in building community networks were leaders from around the globe: Nico Pace and cynthia el khoury, coordinators from Association for Progressive Communications helped gather community network leaders from around the world. Soledad Luca de Tena, a director at South Africa’s first community network, had flown in from Cape Town. TB Dinesh, a mesh specialist, came from Bangalore. Hiure Queiroz, Marcela Guerra and their baby Amina travelled together from Brazil. All week, Luandro Vieira smiled as he typed away and troubleshooted the network expansion, leveraging his experience in building a community network in Moinho, Quilombola village Brazil. At their side were co-creators from People’s Open in Oakland, Toronto Mesh,, the Internet Archive, and more. They highlighted the LibreRouter, an important open hardware being launched to address long-standing hardware problems for rural connectivity. 

Opening the Gates 

Map of DWeb Camp

With the campsite and mesh ready to go, the gates of the Mushroom Farm opened Thursday afternoon and the first eager participants arrived. They had signed up without quite knowing what to expect, but as head Weaver, Kelsey Breseman noted, “anything you can be excited about without knowing what to expect is cool.” 

As they entered, participants were assigned a campsite and immediately welcomed into imaginative world created by the organizers. There was the Mesh Hall, the whirring, technical heart of the first ever DWeb Camp. Cables flying (neatly), drones disemboweled on tables, Oculus headsets, white boards covered with concept designs and welcome signs for mini-workshops on just about any decentralized topic imaginable. 

Trav Fryer made a photo booth connected to Scuttlebutt so that participants could take selfies to share with their friends via the decentralized social media site.

A bit further into the campus hub, and the blockchain courtyard contained a photo-booth where participants could take a selfie with a Secure Scuttlebutt-networked camera, paint a sign about their project, or sit in the shade beneath verdant natural awnings. A few steps further, and the Universal Access Hall, where comfy low mattresses lined the walls and participants sipped tea while joining one of hundreds of small group conversations. 

Hidden in different pockets throughout this space, experts from the Electronic Frontier Foundation talked policy, Secure Scuttlebutt creators imagined a new form of decentralized social media, and representatives from Consensys, Holo, Orchid, Web 3, Coil, Gun, Dat, Web Torrent, Jolocom, Protocol Labs, and Solid held court on infrastructure design, new protocols and data structures. There were spaces to talk about archiving where the Internet Archive showcased its model of a miniaturized version of its collection and the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative demoed their latest thinking on data infrastructure and political risk. 

Outside the hall, the sprawling outdoor picnic area crests the bluff alongside a hang out area with a make your own name-tag button station, an outdoor kitchen, and picnic areas with countless ongoing conversations, all framed by a bonfire pit and the Dome of Decentralization. In this space, participants settled into the whimsy, the creativity, the ethos of the land. Then, for the next three days, leapt into thinking, experimenting, and creating against the backdrop of the relentless pounding of Pacific waves. 

Many big conversations too place in the shade of the Dome of Decentralization in the camp’s outdoor living room.

Experiments Galore! 

Jasper shows off how to fly a drone.

In such a setting, experimentation reigned!

Participants brought ideas, projects in prototype, and ready to break demos, excited to have their solutions picked apart by their brainy peers. A thirteen-year-old boy, Jasper, chaperoned by his dad, worked with older coders to create a 3D map of the farm using customized software and patterned drone flights. Tables in the Mesh Room held rotating conversations about projects across the network stack: Kyle Drakeshowcased his recreation of Geocities, complete with MIDI sound files playing happily in the background. Just across the room, Bryan Newbold invited participants to print or take away some 10 million journal articles. Throughout the week, the ten DWeb Camp Global Fellows were easy to find, leading discussions on building community networks and P2P apps and sharing their experiences as local leaders of decentralization. Every once in awhile, these conversations were interrupted by a new murder as a campus-wide game of ASSASSINS played out. 

Bryan Newbold hosted a data swap where he shared more than 10 million academic articles in his collection.

The energy of the hacker space permeated the whole of the conversation and constantly reminded participants that the theories discussed, values articulated, and ideas for a better web were not simply abstract wish lists, but services that can and should be built. 

Old Guard & the New 

For the young creators in attendance, there was inspiration and caution offered by a host of the early pioneers of the Web. Sir Tim Berners Lee was in attendance, offering the history of the World Wide Web. Mary Lou Jepsen, who held senior product roles at Google and Facebook, hosted a conversation on privacy and the emerging central role of big data in the biomedical field. Brewster Kahle hosted a data swap, diving into conversations about the Internet Archive, archiving, and the evolution around the decentralized web conversation. 

Mary Lou Jepsen leads a conversation on practical telepathy and the importance of privacy in a world where more and more personal data is collected and put to use.

The last evening, an impromptu gathering of the “Old Guard” as they self-branded took place long into the night. What was it like when the web was just starting? What worked and what didn’t? They told and retold the origin stories of the field, leaving younger participants with the tingling feeling that history was not so removed, but pulsing, present and a part of us.

Wayback Wheel & A New Ethos for the Web 

Participants gather for an informal discussion on climate change beneath the Wayback Wheel awning.

The southern end of the campsite was framed by a very sacred space, the Wayback Wheel. This piece, a beautiful canopied structure framing an open fire built by Joshua Tree, originated at Standing Rock and then traveled to Burning Man. Only before DWeb Camp did it find its home on the Mushroom Farm. Oriented toward the cardinal directions, this piece was programmed throughout the week by the artistic-technological educator Andi Wong and proved a centering sculptural home for conversations around the values of decentralized technology and building a world with respect for the elements and earth. 

At the Wheel, the camp worked to center indigenous voices — beginning with Kanyon’s opening welcome and threaded throughout with indigenous and tribal representation from across the globe present. There Andi also hosted hands-on activities for the children in attendance, whose ages ranged from a few months old to teens, helping them make art and create their own world within the camp. It also corralled conversations with Earth Species Project founders, Brit Selvitelle and Asa Raskin on whether and how we could use neural nets and machine learning to understand animal communication. Over cocktails one night, about 20 attendees gathering to discuss the rapidly changing climate — and the role technologists have in contributing toward solutions. 

By design and thanks to the supportive setting, this conversation about values permeated throughout the week. In a dynamic, well-attended talk in the Hyper Lounge, Asa Raskin and Tristan Harris from the Center for Humane Technology gave a talk about how lightspeed advances in technology (and particularly ad-based business models) have overwhelmed our natural evolutionary defenses. Later, they listened intently to a group of Web 3.0 builders and brainstormed solutions to making more human-centered technologies. These global ethicists came to learn  how decentralization could play a role in that better future.  

Asa Raskin and Tristan Harris give a talk on ethics.

The importance of these big conversations were wonderfully framed by Mai Ishikawa Sutton in her blog post, “Transforming Ourselves to Transform Our Networks” at the beginning of camp. And perhaps the greatest gift of DWeb Camp to its participants was that it created a relaxed, thoughtful space that could build the trust needed to have these hard conversations. 

Onward: Homeward Bound with a Call To Action  

The Kids of DWeb Camp hosted their very own parade to kick off the closing ceremony. Throughout the week, their creativity connected them to each other and the land as they made art, met new friends, and learned about where food comes from from the farmers.

Whether dancing away by firelit to SF Airship Acoustic, sharing stories over a cup of hot cacao, or laughing riotously during the talent show, participants at DWeb Camp fostered the relationships that will only strengthen this movement toward a better web. The space offered by the Mushroom Farm and cultivated by the DWeb Camp creators and all its partners proved natural home to the kind of slow conversation that creates lasting friendships. It was a place that returned those of us engaged in decentralization to our first principles and democractic ideals, clarified by sunshine and sharpened by the cold and salty Pacific. 

Now, participants have scattered across the world — they have become, again, decentralized — but the community built above the crashing waves of Gazos Beach is living on, imagining, designing, and building a better shared future through technology and community. 

The DWeb Camp Crew!

DWeb Camp Profile: Mary Lou Jepson on the Future of Practical Telepathy and Learning from Pioneers

Some people are tasked with seeing into the future to offer us a sense of what it may hold. Mary Lou Jepsen is one of those people. Her curiosity sparks and ignites with the slightest provocation and manifests itself in the tech products that transform our lives. 

This week, her curiosity is bringing her to DWeb Camp. 

In anticipation of this gathering of engineers, designers, policymakers, and utopian dreamers, I connected with Mary Lou Jepsen to talk about how she is currently thinking about the transformations happening in the technologies where she spends most of her time today  —  the rapidly evolving field of brain-computer communications — and the possible implications of the decentralized web for privacy, healthcare, power, and society. 

In short, I asked her — what does the future hold? What kind of web do we want? 

Our resulting conversation was wide-ranging and touched on everything from ethics to sensor miniaturization to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals to — maybe most importantly — whether one day soon we might be able to converse with our dogs. 

Designing, Building, & Producing at Scale 

It is clear Mary Lou Jepsen thinks at scale. She did her postgraduate work at MIT and Brown in optical sciences and in the process, built one of the largest holographic displays in the world. It was the size of a full city block. She then took on product leadership roles at Intel and joined the MIT Media Lab’s faculty with a focus on graphical displays. 

The power of technology deployed at scale has always driven her work. While at the Media Lab, she partnered with Nicholas Negroponte to found One Laptop per Child (OLPC) with the audacious goal of making an affordable, durable, low-power-consumption computer that could transform the educational lives of children globally. Key to that solution: leveraging the massive global supply chains and manufacturing capabilities of the tech industry. Her first at-scale dive into technology for good, OLPC shipped millions of these laptops, bringing in over $1 billion in revenue. It was work that earned her a mention on the Time 100 list in 2008

“You have to leverage that one in a hundred kids are a genius and that most kids can figure out how to use the laptop.” Jepsen said. “A kid stops learning when they stop asking why, when the explanation for something becomes solely because ‘we’ve always done it that way.’” 

The education that kids can open for themselves with even a simple connection to information demonstrates the transformative power of technology.  It’s a power for good that we can’t lose track of in the midst of today’s current backlash against technology. 

“On a whole, you can’t dismiss all the positive things that have happened,” she says. “Even looking at desperate poverty, it’s been halved. There are incredible statistics of global achievement.” 

“How do we throw what we have into the next thing?”

Jepsen has thrown herself fully into understanding hardware development and global manufacturing systems for high tech products. Doing so meant living life as a trans-Pacific nomad, sleeping on factory floors throughout Asia and diving into product strategy, design, and engineering in Silicon Valley. 

After OLPC, she founded Pixel Qi, centering the screen and graphical display in hardware design and building off the low-power designs from OLPC. She then joined Google X, advising across their portfolio on display and consumer electronics. From there, she moved to Facebook, where she drove the development of the graphical display and wearable head mount of Oculus’ VR system. Each role placed her at the cutting edge of optics, consumer electronics, and mass production. 

In a parallel research ecosystem, scientists were making vast strides in neuroscience as they worked to understand brain disease, Alzheimer’s, stroke, brain cancer, and depression. These are diseases that impact hundreds of millions of patients worldwide, with more than 6 million dying from stroke alone each year. What is really going on in that mass of neurological tissue? How do we image the brain and, in doing so, devise treatments to improve neurological outcomes? Can we even read, through a scanner, someone’s thoughts? 

It is inevitable, Jepsen said, that these fields — consumer tech and neurology — will collide. Our collective curiosity demands it. 

“We could say nope, we don’t want to know how it works,” she said. “We could make a law against it. But it’s hard to imagine that beings with brains won’t want to know how they work.” 

Her contribution to this collision is Openwater, a company Jepsen founded to 3-D map the body and mind through portable, wearable devices that use holograms to perform the equivalent of an fMRI. 

It’s worth checking out her TED talk and demo of the project to grasp this system in greater detail. In short, Openwater proposes to take the way that light and sound travel through tissue, leverage recent strides in sensor miniaturization and processing capacity to measure and record those patterns, and use holography to image internal brain structures based upon those measurements. By interpreting the created images, Openwater expects to develop insights into how a particular brain is damaged — and ultimately, what it is thinking.

MRIs, the current go-to means of brain imaging and diagnosis, rely on clunky, expensive machinery. At Openwater, the product prototype is designed to be affordable, portable, and mass produced. 

As the technology advances, Jepsen expects users to be able to “read/write” using the light and sound stimuli. In non-tech shorthand, the wearable could be used for both diagnosis and treatment. If this is realized, the use cases are countless. Jepsen riffs through a few scenarios: it could help those with depression understand their illness and seek treatment. Or it could offer those who are neurodiverse new ways to communicate. For example, it may help a person who has had a stroke regain language facility.

Jepsen jokes — with dead seriousness — that she even imagines a device, a little hat, worn by a dog. Could we enhance the dog’s communication? How about give him a memory bank? Or how about taking the technology to dolphins and whales to truly understand the depth of their intelligence? 

“It sounds like crazy-person talk,” she admits. “But it’s not.” 

On a more immediate note, one early use case the team has identified is helping emergency medical professionals determine the type of stroke a patient is experiencing. Clot strokes and hemorrhagic strokes are both treatable, but if a patient’s stroke type is misidentified and they are treated with the wrong medication, they can die. A portable device that can distinguish between these stroke types can vastly improve health outcomes. 

As Openwater’s technology develops, Jepsen knows the medical benefits will have the power to transform lives. There will also come a time when we eventually can read someone’s thoughts with this technology. She recognizes that the troves of data unlocked in the processes have significant implications for society. Who holds power when you can read someone’s innermost thoughts? There will be reams of data about everything: about logic and emotion, about the input we get into our ears, eyes, and brain. There will be the ability to add input as we learn to write into brain-computer systems, perhaps changing what a person does or says. 

As we race toward this future, Jepsen notes that now is absolutely the time to ask the hard questions and define what responsibility means at this new frontier. To ask questions about the storage, distribution, privacy and ownership of data. These questions are already being asked, particularly by many involved with the development of the decentralized web. Jepsen sees DWeb Camp as an opportunity to bring these questions to the front and develop community around their answers. 

Jepsen doesn’t yet know what the answers are, but perhaps, she notes, it involves involves technical solutions. And perhaps it includes a new declaration of human rights. 

With the Pioneers

The importance of these questions brought our conversation back to DWeb Camp, an idyllic and raucous gathering of individuals working on decentralized web protocols and applications. Widely citing the failure of Web 2.0 to provide certain protections  — of people, communities, economies — this community is building new protocols for a better web, the web we want and deserve. 

As a student of the future, Jepsen has been following the DWeb movement and understands that the systems that may come from it may have profound implications for the storage and sharing of data. In turn, they will impact how our technology and society is structured. 

What is the architecture of the next form of Internet? 

From her perspective at the cutting edge of brain-computer communication, she has a few priorities to offer for consideration at the camp.


The recoil against technology has been reverberating throughout the tech ecosystem as users begin to understand just how deeply individual privacy has eroded in recent years. The countless small pieces of data vacuumed from our click-trails have become proprietary to the companies that collect them and, when paired with immense processing capacity, become incredibly valuable. 

That flood of data will build exponentially as technologies like Openwater go mainstream. Coming from a healthcare background, Jepsen sees the importance of addressing privacy head on. At first this would entail giving medical data standard sensitivity. Later, however, it will have to account for the stark responsibility over data that is synonymous with people’s private thoughts.  

How do we insure that only those who wish to share their thoughts with have access to them? Can we create a distributed system in which access to personal thoughts is as ephemeral as desired?


Any time you type into a Google search bar, several dozen experiments are being run on you. “Why isn’t it the same in the doctor’s office?” Jepsen asks. There are legal guidelines, like HIPAA, that govern sharing medical data, of course, and provide key patient protections while facilitating research. 

Jepsen however, offers the hypothetical of whether, through the decentralized web, within these bounds each hospital could be its own archive. Hospitals could process information around treatment trajectory, cost, money, time — even pain and suffering — to help meet the needs of patients more immediately. We could, she insists, understand so much more about disease if we could readily take the information we have about disease and put it to work.  

Energy and Resource Use

The amounts of neurological data, as mentioned, are immense. So is the energy and processing capacity needed to make sense of it. How can we ensure that the system we create does not condemn us to further resource exploitation?

Jepsen readily admits that, as a multi-disciplinary/anti-disciplinary outsider to the decentralized web community, she doesn’t yet know if the decentralized web is moving in these directions. What she has identified there, however, is a wealth of deep thinking, experimentation, and project design that, as so many trends in technology before, has sparked her curiosity. 

“I am going to learn. To ask questions.” she said, her curiosity flaring, excited by the very idea of new community and new ideas. “I bring a different healthcare, hardware, education background. How to bring in this different background and think with the pioneers in this area and hopeful contribute to the community building around it.”  

The Future We Want

“How do we define how to be responsible?” Jepsen asks.  

We understand that the future we want is different from the future we have. Perhaps decentralization is the answer. Perhaps it is not. But simply asking the question points to the importance of gatherings like DWeb Camp: informal, long-form, community-driven moments to hit pause on the pressure of shipping product to think about the social and ethical implications of what is being created. 

“These are the tools of our time. It’s how everything gets done, it’s like oxygen to us,” Jepsen said. “We can’t breathe without Internet and Wi-Fi. It’s even hard to be on a plane without it!” 

As vital elements to our contemporary lives, we should all contribute to shaping these tools in development to ensure they reflect our collective values. We are in the middle of a moment in which we now see dark and daunting implications of technology. There are, Jepsen points out, a series of “telling and chilling stories” today from Brexit and Myanmar to rise of the alt-right in the United States. These examples fill the news and are cited as proof points to a runaway machine, controlled by no one and beneficial only to extremists. 

Conversely, the positive impacts of technology are now so seamlessly integrated into daily life that they are easy to overlook. But she notes that global poverty and violence are on the decline and opportunity for education, security, and meaningful work never more present. Much of this progress is related to technology’s advance. 

“Technology is a great enabler,” Jepsen said. “Historically for all humanity it brings good and bad. We need to be clear eyed in thinking of the future for 20, 50, and 100 years of the product. How do we define how to be responsible?” 

Responsibility must be a group project. It is a community coming together to articulate shared values, technical learnings, and hopes for the future. 

“Camp is a really good setting for it,” Jepsen said. “There is more time. You can get into non-confrontational conversations and develop a rapport with someone you facially disagree with. You can listen in another way. Sure, we’re all technologists, but that’s just the first piece of anything we create.” 


Mary Lou Jepsen will be offering a workshop on Saturday July 20th at DWeb Camp entitled “Towards Practical Telepathy — How to Store Private Thoughts.” Join this discussion as she and others dive into how we might structure data storage and sharing for big, personal, sensitive data sets and discuss what role a decentralized system may or may not have in enabling this future. 

For extra learning, check out her TED talk and presentation at the Long Now

Mary Lou Jepsen is the Founder and CEO of Openwater

Lessons Learned: The DWeb Summit UX/UI Workshop

Go to the profile of Iryna Nezhynska

Guest post by Iryna Nezhynska

What should the user experience be for the Decentralized Web? 

This is a short recap about how designers from blockchain and decentralized tech organizations all over the world gathered at the Decentralized Web Summit — Builders Day to ask important questions about the future of the web. First published on the Jolocom blog October 5th, 2018, this piece, Part 1 of a 2-part series, has been updated in anticipation of DWeb Camp’s “set-up-your-mind” session. We hope to jump-start conversations at the 2019 DWeb Camp ahead.

If the number of thoughts triggered by the Decentralized Web Summit 2018 in San Francisco was any indication of how much passion I would like to contribute to the burgeoning blockchain industry, then… Decentralized Web, my designer’s heart and mind are completely yours!

In 2018, more than 750 tech thought leaders interested in building the web we want — and the web we deserve — gathered at the old San Francisco Mint for the 2018 Decentralized Web Summit. There on Builders Day, I joined the UX/UI session as a storyteller so I could later share with the world what puzzles we tried to unlock at the time.

What happened on Builders Day?

On Builders Day there were no panels or talks. Instead, 100+ of the top builders of decentralized protocols and apps, along with leaders from the law, governance, the arts and global rights formed 13 working groups to discuss the roadblock issues to building a new decentralized web.

Our group, led by facilitators Michelle Lee from Protocol Labs and Amy James from, got lucky number 13. Personally, I felt super proud that the session on design was the only one facilitated completely by ladies, so I simply couldn’t resist starting a tweet with lyrics: “Who runs the world? Girls!” 

There was no advance registration for sessions. Instead organisers turned the group-forming process into a short trade show of topics (Dear Reader, note this! — it’s an idea worth stealing for your next event). Each topic had its own information stand where attendees could share their thoughts, frustrations or challenges they currently face within that area.

This first round of chats helped facilitators get a feel for the audience in advance, and the questions we noted down during the “trade show” became our starting point for the afternoon sessions.

Breaking the Ice

Following the trade-show, Michelle Lee suggested an icebreaker game I cannot fail to mention.

We created an imaginary axis across our space anchored by two controversial opinions. After Michelle read each statement related to the session topic, then participants arranged themselves along the line :  What did they think? How strongly did they feel? Was there agreement? 

The prompts hit at some of the thorniest questions in our field: 

  • “For any decentralized app that appears I can build a centralised one that performs faster.”
  • “Users don’t need to understand decentralisation to benefit from it.”
  • “We need to abandon UX of centralised web to create excellent experiences for the decentralized web.”
  • “In the last week of work, did you create for end users or for developers?”

The physicality of this exercise brought to life the strong feelings many of us feel about these answers. After each question, we also dove into explaining why we felt the way we do. A few of the more interesting answers:  

Question: “Users have to understand how decentralized technology works to benefit from it.” 

Our working group agreed unanimously that people need to understand that something is better. They need to see the difference in benefits and understand the implications of using one technology over another. However, they don’t need to know all the details.

Question: “We have to abandon UX of the centralised web in order to create better experiences for the decentralized web.”

One strong answer: Can you imagine throwing out decades of practices developed by our UX heroes and mentors?

This surfaced the memorable realization that we don’t need to abandon everything at once  and that  different approaches to UX will emerge organically. We should not wait for users’ behaviour to change on its own. Instead, we should kick-start the process by building on behaviours that are familiar to people already so that they can more easily try out new things. And then, step by step, introduce new, better patterns of experience design.

The behaviour of users will change once they recognize differences between current apps and dapps. They will sit back, rethink, and change their behaviours. Only then we should adjust UX practises to meet these new patterns of behaviour and help people adopt decentralized products faster.

Going Deeper: Ideas We Put on the Table

Well, not on a table — on a whiteboard. And not only ideas — all things that bother us that day. Some of the brainstorm questions kept us running a discussion for the next 4 hours until the final call to join the closing keynote. They are also our (designers’) homework — we will not successfully move forward if we don’t find at least first hypotheses to work from moving forward.

I think it’s very important to remember that when it comes to adoption of new technologies our design decisions influence and literally “embed” new behaviours into people who adopt this technology. So the key question to me is: “Do we design to change or not to change behaviours that people earned using the centralized web?” 

I’m very curious, as DWeb Camp fast approaches July 18-21, 2019, how many of these challenges will appear again as the questions that keep the cogs in our brains working late into the night. I hope this recap of discussions from 2018 will jumpstart our process, and accelerate the learning we need industry-wide.

Look out for Part II of this blog which will cover a few additional questions and ideas in more depth. 

Getting Ready for DWeb Camp: A Conversation with Kelsey Breseman

Earlier this week, I spoke with Kelsey Breseman, a rockstar engineer and entrepreneur working to solve climate change, protect public access to scientific data, and build a better web. Equal parts concrete problem solver and utopian dreamer, in her spare time, she wanders the forests north of Seattle and revels in VERY long walks. 

In July, she will be leading a workshop at the Decentralized Web Camp. Here’s our conversation, edited for length and clarity. 

Kelsey, fantastic to meet another climate nerd working on the Decentralized Web. Thanks for speaking with me!

Let’s start with climate. You’re currently working on a book to introduce engineers, entrepreneurs and other change-makers to the subject, as well as working at an environmentally-focused nonprofit. When did you realize this was what you needed to work on? 

I had a classic tech start up after college. It was a very ‘S.F. Bay Area young engineer’ feeling. I was pulled into a job, it could have been a career, I was making money — but I wasn’t satisfied. 

Part was the hours. It wasn’t physically good to my body. Part was that I was doing user research, and the demographics were not the demographics I was interested in serving. Maybe, I thought, the tool we were making wasn’t that transformative. It was not a bad tool or bad community, but I want to spend the majority of my time on something that really matters. 

I did the thing where I quit without a plan. 

I wanted to find something to work on that would have an impact, and something I might be good at. Climate change was the obvious direction — it’s really big and it needs a lot of different initiatives, including engineering. It needs different people and different solutions, all acted upon at once. Climate change is a set of enormous shifts that will happen globally. Entrepreneurship thrives where things are changing.

I had a few different ventures in the climate entrepreneurship space, but though this was values-aligned, I kept hitting the same issues as before in terms of physically wearing myself down. So I was really pleased to stumble across a listing at EDGI, the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative, asking for remote, part-time work for someone experienced in engineering, open source, project management, and taking initiative. The non-profit has much better leverage and contacts than I could make on my own in terms of impacting climate policy, and I help the org design and execute on projects at the intersection of environment, technology, governance, and justice. And I’m finally able to balance my time to do everything else: keep bees, bake sourdough, find intense physical adventures, and volunteer with activist movements. 

How does it all intersect with the Decentralized Web? How did you get connected to this big, ambitious project?

I found out about DWeb a few years ago, but my biggest involvement is through EDGI.  EDGI started around concerns that the United States government could decrease access to public environmental data, especially data that they produce, particularly in politically motivated ways. As a starting point, the group of academics, volunteers, and otherwise ordinary citizens who became EDGI coalesced around the mission to —just in case motives get wonky— ensure that as much of that data as possible was archived somewhere. Then the next step was to think about how to increase access to that data. 

That next step centers the question: “What it looks like to have an unbiased approach to data ownership?”

One of the most interesting efforts at EDGI is the Data Together project. We’re interested in Decentralized Web — how people own the data they need and use. We bring together people building DWeb protocols to enable data storage and answering, what does it mean to create virtual citizenship in that space? That’s what is bringing me to camp. 

So you think a lot about what being a “good citizen” means on the web. What does that look like?

Being a good citizen — we as Americans see our civic duty as voting and taxes, and being “productive” in the sense of having a job, and that’s all. That hasn’t always been the case; a truly committed citizenship is more. 

Data Together is largely hyper-educated tech people. Together, we discuss ways to design tech to be good stewards of data. This is informed by EDGI’s broader work, including a formulation of Environmental Data Justice, and also informs EDGI’s work, especially in archiving.

I don’t think we’ve come up with conclusions, but the act of talking to each other about ethics and values matters. Centering conversations around what are we trying to do as ‘citizens for good’ is important and massively useful. 

We look, for example, at case studies where people thought they were being unbiased and fell short. For example, Bitcoin was designed to be just technology. No policy, no society, etc. But because of voting based on mining ownership, which were owned by those with capital, they couldn’t actually get away from power structures. 

DWeb Camp, to me, is a place where we can practice this active, creative kind of citizenship. The radical act of gathering together in nature, setting up our own infrastructure for a week, and asking these big questions of each other. 

I’ve always had a weakness for utopian society. That feeling that we might be creating something fundamentally new, and deciding what the rules will be.

Gatherings where you bring folks together in space is to foster connection. The meaningful casual interactions — sharing food, seeing who wants to stay out late and look at the sunset, making space to be human together— create a motivation to work together on the technology. 

DWeb Camp is rooted in the idea of intentional community. How might we engage with data, with money, with people? How do we do that in a way that creates a different world? I’ve been describing DWeb Camp as Burning Man for nerds. I don’t know what to expect — and anything you can be excited about without knowing what to expect is cool. 

Exactly! And right now, DWeb Camp is full potential, energized by a remarkable set of thinkers and engineers who are bringing it to life. 

I’ve spent a lot of time volunteering on open source projects. The technology may be what draws you in, but it is the community that keeps you involved. You show up on a call because you want to see the people and share in their work. As Liz Barry said on a recent Data Together call, our polity is the set of people with whom we can share dreams. 

This is a gathering of those dreamers. 

So thinking about what will happen at camp when everyone is gathered together, you’re offering a workshop that you’re calling a “Technical Salon.” What’s the plan and why should people attend? 

I have wanted to give this workshop for years. I’m really interested in communities and how to foster a sense of connection between strangers— so this is an experiment.

In the technical salon, you don’t start with your name, where you’re from, or where you work. Instead, you put three things you’re interested in talking about on your name-tag. You come into the space with, more or less, your heart on your sleeve to declare what you want to talk about.

My hope is that this will help people to connect more deeply, more vulnerably, right away, by meeting immediately over the things that matter to them. 

I’ll certainly be there, and am sure others will too. 

Thanks so much for sharing your work on climate, DWeb, citizenship and more. See you later in July!

If you would like to join Kelsey and other marvelous thinkers at DWeb Camp, learn more and sign up here. July 18-21 at a Farm near Pescadero, CA.


Kelsey Breseman is an engineer, entrepreneur, and community builder. She spends as much time as possible outside in the woods, thinking about and experimenting with different ways to save the world.

Getting Ready for DWeb Camp: Defining Our Terms

This is a guest post by Lawrence Wilkinson and Richard Whitt summarizing a conversation they led at the 2018 Decentralized Web Summit on the topic of the language and terminology we use to talk about the Decentralized Web.

“What do we mean exactly by X?” 

As the conversation around the Decentralized Web has evolved, one persistent line of questions has been around the very definition of language we commonly use. 

Over the course of the Builder’s Day, and the two days of the Decentralized Web Summit 2018, a group came together to parse this shared language. The terms “decentralized,” “federated,” and, perhaps especially, “open,” amongst others, were proffered for conversation, and the participants provided some excellent input. 

The goal was not to codify or limit ourselves. One discussant made the excellent point that some ambiguity is not a negative thing at this relatively early stage of development. It was labelled a “Goldilocks problem” — too much ambiguity, and there is a failure to communicate and difficulty to cooperation; too little ambiguity, and there is little room for experimentation and happy accidents. The point, shared by others, is that we should want just enough of a shared understanding to allow us to move forward together, but still retain enough ambiguity to allow for innovation.

The Right Questions

By and large, there was agreement that we cannot all agree on what various terms mean with great precision. For example, for some the concept of being “decentralized” was the endgame, a goal unto itself. The consensus seemed to be, however, that “decentralization” refers variously to resources, or to functions, or to governance, and that each of these connotations in turn was a means to a larger objective. By contrast, the term “openness” generally was seen as the end goal — the why — while decentralized systems and protocols are the tools, the means — the how.

When the several groups worked through the nuances, there appeared to be some agreement on the following set of categories based upon a specific line of questions that were being asked: in essence, what role is the particular term or concept intended to serve? 


  • Web, Internet, Network, Protocol, Application, Blockchain, Server, End Point, Holographic Storage


  • Decentralized, Distributed, Federated, Interoperable, Self-steering, Generative tensions, Immune system response, Communication


  • Users, Communities, Governance, Community-Governed, Builders, Founders, Ecosystem

Why/To What Effect/To What End

  • Privacy, Security, Open, Agency, Trust, Sustainable, Scalable, Global Consensus, Alignment, Provenance, Permissionless, Same opportunity for everyone, Tyranny, Manipulation, Stalked, Facts, Competitive with Centralized Systems, Who Loses, Self-Sovereign Data, User-Controlled, Effects on/For Users, Risks of Current Situation, Unrealized Benefits

“Constructive Conflict” as a Feature, Not a Bug 

Our glossary of terms, once our group established roughly which question a given term sought to answer, took a fascinating turn from trying to precisely define each term to doubling down on our shared sense that, at present, definitional confusion or fuzziness was less a bug and more a feature. 

As the Decentralized Web endeavor matures into a field, the terminology will settled into firmer and more widely-accepted definitions. But in the meantime, such perspective creates a “space” in which different understandings of a term can generate constructive conflict and lead to surprising advances. 

Ambiguity, in this instance, is the friend of creativity, encouraging questioning, learning, and innovation. And at this stage in the development of the D Web, creation is the main event. 

EDITORS NOTE: We will continue to wrestles with these issues at DWeb Camp, July 18-21, 2019. We hope you will join us.

Lawrence Wilkinson

Lawrence Wilkinson Wilkinson is Chairman of Heminge & Condell (H&C), an investment and strategic advisory firm. Through H&C, Lawrence is involved in venture formation work, and as a director and counselor to a number of companies that he helped create over the years, among them: Wired, Oxygen Media, Broderbund Software, Ealing Studios, Colossal Pictures/USFX, Design Within Reach, and Public Bikes.  As co-founder and president of Global Business Network (GBN), Lawrence helped develop and spread the scenario planning approach to long-term planning, now one of the most widely-used techniques by organizations globally; he continues to offer strategic counsel to a number of corporate clients, NGOs, and governments around the world. His recent work includes leading strategy projects for The Internet Archive, Mozilla, Wikimedia, EFF, Code for America, KQED, and Public Radio (NPR/PRI/CPB), all focused on the Future of Civil Discourse.  He serves as Chair of The Institute for the Future (IFTF), Vice-Chair of Common Sense Media (which he co-founded), and a director of Landesa, Public Radio International, Public Architecture, and The Global Lives Project; as an advisor to The Library of the Future Project at The Bodleian Library, Oxford; as a Visitor at Harvard University Libraries; and as a Fellow of the MIT Center for Transportation and Logistics. He is a graduate of Davidson College, Oxford University, and Harvard Business School.

Richard Whitt

Richard Whitt Whitt is an experienced corporate strategist and technology policy attorney. Currently he serves as Fellow in Residence with the Mozilla Foundation, and Senior Fellow with the Georgetown Institute for Technology Law and Policy. As head of NetsEdge LLC, he advises companies on the complex governance challenges at the intersection of market, technology, and policy systems. He is also president of the GLIA Foundation, and founder of the GLIAnet Project.

Richard is an eleven-year veteran of Google (2007-2018). Most recently he served as Google’s corporate director for strategic initiatives, working with Vint Cerf, Hal Varian, and other Googlers on policy and ethical issues related to Internet of Things, machine learning, broadband connectivity, digital preservation, and other emerging technologies. A notable achievement was negotiating successfully with the Cuban government for permission to build the country’s first free public WiFi hotspot for Internet access. From 2012 to 2014, Richard was chosen by Google management as the Corporate Vice President and Global Head of Public Policy at newly-acquired Motorola Mobility.

Prior to his executive role with Motorola, Richard served as Google’s director and managing counsel for federal policy, overseeing strategic thinking on privacy, cybersecurity, intellectual property, Internet governance, and free expression. Previously he led the Company’s substantive advocacy on issues such as network neutrality, broadband deployment, “unregulation” of Internet applications, and spectrum policy. In particular he headed up Google’s open Internet policy on a global basis, guided the Company’s participation in the FCC’s 700 MHz auction, helped secure TV White Spaces spectrum allocation, and collaborated on the nationwide launch of Google Fiber.

Before joining Google in 2007, Richard spent twelve years in the legal department at MCI Communications. He most recently headed up MCI’s DC office as vice president for federal law and policy. 

A Deep Dive into Openness

Laying a Shared Foundation for a Decentralized Web

In this guest post, Richard Whitt builds on his prepared remarks from the “Defining Our Terms” conversations at the Decentralized Web Summit in 2018. The remarks have been modified to account for some excellent contemporaneous feedback from the session.

Some Widespread Confusion on Openness 

So, we all claim to love the concept of openness — from our economic markets, to our political systems, to our trade policies, even to our “mindedness.” And yet, we don’t appear to have a consistent, well-grounded way of defining what it means to be open, and why it is a good thing in any particular situation. This is especially the case in the tech sector, where we talk at great length about the virtues of open standards, open source, open APIs, open data, open AI, open science, open government, and of course open Internet.

Even over the past few months, there are obvious signs of this rampant and growing confusion in the tech world. 

Recently, former FCC Chairman, and current cable lobbyist Michael Powell gave a television interview, where he decried what he calls “the mythology… of Nirvana-like openness.” He claims this mythology includes the notion that information always wants to be free, and openness is always good. Interestingly, he also claims that the Internet is moving towards what he called “narrow tunnels,” meaning only a relative few entities control the ways that users interact with the Web.

Here are but three recent examples of tech openness under scrutiny:

  • Facebook and the data mining practices of Cambridge Analytica: was the company too open with its data sharing practices and its APIs?
  • Google and the $5B fine on Android in the EU: was the company not open enough with its open source OS?
  • Network neutrality at the FCC in its rise and fall, and rise and now again fall. Proponents of network neutrality claim they are seeking to save an open Internet; opponents of network neutrality insist they are seeking to restore an open Internet. Can both be right, or perhaps neither?

The concept of openness seems to share some commonalities with decentralization and federation, and with the related edge/core dichotomy. To be open, to be decentralized, to be on the edge, generally is believed to be good. To be closed, to be centralized, to be from the core, is bad. Or at least, that appears to be the natural bias of many of the folks at the Summit. 

Whether the decentralized Web, however we define it, is synonymous to openness, or merely related in some fashion, is an excellent question.

The Roots of Openness

First, at a very basic level, openness is a very old and ancient thing. In the Beginning, everything was outside. Or inside. Or both.

A foundational aspect of systems is the notion that they have boundaries. But that is only the beginning of the story. A boundary is merely a convenient demarcation between what is deemed the inner and what is deemed the outer. Determining where one system ends and another ends is not such a straightforward task.

It turns out that in nature, the boundaries between the inner and the outer are not nearly as firm and well-defined as many assume. Many systems display what are known as semi-permeable boundaries. Even a human being, in its physical body, in its mental and emotional “spaces,” can be viewed as having extensible selves, reaching far into the environment. And in turn, that environment reaches deep into the self. Technologies can be seen as one form of extension of the properties of the physical and mental self.

The world is made up of all types of systems, from simple to complex, natural to human-made. Most systems are not static, but constantly changing patterns of interactions. They exist to survive, and even to flourish, so long as they gain useful energy in their interactions with their environments.

“Homeostasis” is a term describing the tendency of a system to seek a stable state by adapting and tweaking and adjusting to its internal and external environments. There is no set path to achieving that stability, however — no happy medium, no golden mean, no end goal. In fact, the second law of thermodynamics tells us that systems constantly are holding off the universe’ relentless drive towards maximum entropy.  Only in the outright death of the system, do the inner and the outer conjoin once again.

Human beings too are systems, a matrix of cells organized into organs, organized into the systems of life. The most complex of these systems might be the neurological system, which in turn regulates our own openness to experience of the outside world. According to psychologists, openness to experience is one of the Big Five personality traits. This is considered a crucial element in each of us because it often cuts against the grain of our DNA and our upbringing. Surprise and newness can be perceived as a threat, based on how our brains are wired. After all, as someone once said, we are all descendants of nervous monkeys. Many of our more adventurous, braver, more open forebears probably died out along the way. Some of them, however, discovered and helped create the world we live in today. 

From a systems perspective, the trick is to discover and create the conditions that optimize how the particular complex system functions. Whether a marketplace, a political system, a community, the Internet — or an individual.

Second, it may be useful to include networks and platforms in our consideration of a systems approach to openness.

There is no firm consensus here. But for many, a network is a subset of a system, while a platform is a subset of a network. All share some common elements of complex adaptive systems, including emergence, tipping points, and the difficulty of controlling the resource, versus managing it.

The subsets also have their own attributes. So, networks show network effects, while platforms show platform economic effects.

From the tech business context, openness may well look different — and more or less beneficial — depending on which of these systems structures is in play, and where we place the boundaries. An open social network premised on acquiring data for selling advertising, may not be situated the same as an open source mobile operating system ecosystem, or Internet traffic over an open broadband access network. The context of the underlying resource is all-important and as such, changes the value (and even the meaning) of openness. 

Third, as Michael Powell correctly calls out, this talk about being open or closed cannot come down to simple black and white dichotomies. In fact, using complex systems analysis, these two concepts amount to what is called a polarity. Neither pole is an absolute unto itself, but in fact exists, and can only be defined, in terms of its apparent opposite.

And this makes sense, right? After all, there is no such thing as a completely open system. At some point, such a system loses its very functional integrity, and eventually dissipates into nothingness. Nor is there such a thing as a completely closed system. At some point it becomes a sterile, dessicated wasteland, and simply dies from lack of oxygen.

So, what we tend to think of as the open/closed dichotomy is in fact a set of systems polarities which constitute a continuum. Perhaps the decentralized Web could be seen in a similar way, with some elements of centralization — like naming conventions — useful and even necessary for the proper functioning of the Web’s more decentralized components.

Fourth, the continuum between the more open and the more closed changes and shifts with time. Being open is a relative concept. It depends for meaning on what is going on around it. This means there is no such thing as a fixed point, or an ending equilibrium. That is one reason to prefer the term “openness” to “open,” as it suggests a moving property, an endless becoming, rather than a final resting place, a being. Again, more decentralized networks may have similar attributes of relative tradeoffs. This suggests as well that the benefits we see from a certain degree of openness are not fixed in stone.

Relatedly, a system is seen as open as compared to its less open counterpart. In this regard, the openness that is sought can be seen as reactive, a direct response to the more closed system it has been, or could be. Open source is so because it is not proprietary. Open APIs are so because they are not private. Could it be that openness actually is a reflexive, even reactionary concept? And can we explore its many aspects free from the constraints of the thing we don’t wish for it to be?

Fifth, openness as a concept seems not to be isolated, but spread all across the Internet, as well as all the various markets and technologies that underlay and overlay the Internet. Even if it is often poorly understood and sometimes misused, openness is still a pervasive subject.

Just on the code (software) and computational sides, the relevant domains include:

  • Open standards, such as the Internet Protocol
  • Open source, such as Android
  • Open APIs, such as Venmo
  • Open data, such as EU Open Data Portal
  • Open AI, such as RoboSumo

How we approach openness in each of these domains potentially has wide-ranging implications for the others. 

“Open” Source

One quick example is open source.

The Mozilla Foundation recently published a report acknowledging the obvious: there is no such thing as a single “open source” model. Instead, the report highlights no fewer than 10 different types of open source archetypes, from “B2B” to “Rocket Ship to Mars” to “Bathwater.” A variety of factors are at play in each of the ten proposed archetypes, including component coupling, development speed, governance structure, community standards, types of participants, and measurements of success.

Obviously, if the smart folks at Mozilla have concluded that open source can and does mean many different things, it must be true. And that same nuanced thinking probably is suitable as well for all the other openness domains.

So, in sum, openness is a systems polarity, a relational and contextual concept, a reflexive move, and a pervasive aspect of the technology world.

Possible Openness Taxonomies

Finally, here are a few proposed taxonomies that would be useful to explore further:

Means versus End

Is openness a tool (a means), or an outcome (an end)? Or both? And if both, when is it best employed in one way compared to another? There are different implications for what we want to accomplish.

The three Fs

Generally speaking, openness can refer to one of three things: a resource, a process, or an entity. 

  • The resource is the virtual or physical thing subject to being open.
  • The process is the chosen way for people to create and maintain openness, and which itself can be more or less open. 
  • The entity is the body of individuals responsible for the resource and the process. Again, the entity can be more or less open.

Perhaps a more alliterative way of putting this is that the resource is the function, the chosen process is the form, and the chosen entity is the forum.

For example, in terms of the Internet, the Internet Protocol and other design elements constitute the function, the RFC process is the form, and the IETF is the forum. Note that all these are relatively open, but obviously in different ways. Also note that a relatively closed form and forum can yield a more open function, or vice versa.

Form and forum need not follow function. But the end result is probably better if it does. 

So, in all cases of openness, we should ask: What is the Form, what is the Forum, and what is the Function?

Scope of Openness

Openness also be broken down into scope, or the different degrees of access provided.

This can run the gamut, from the bare minimum of awareness that a resource or process or entity even exists, to transparency about what it entails, then to accessing and utilizing the resource, and have a reasonable ability to provide input into it, influence its operation, control its powers, and ultimately own it outright. One can see it as the steps involved from identifying and approaching a house, and eventually possessing the treasure buried inside or even forging that treasure into new being.

Think about the Android OS, for example, and how its labelling as an open source platform does, or does not, comport with the full scope of openness, and perhaps how those degrees have shifted over time. Clearly it matches up to one of Mozilla’s ten open source archetypes — but what are the tradeoffs, who has made them and why, and what is the full range of implications for the ecosystem? That would be worth a conversation.

Interestingly, many of these degrees of openness seem to be rooted in traditional common carrier law and regulation, going back decades if not centuries.

  • Visibility and Transparency: the duty to convey information about practices and services
  • Access: the norms of interconnection and interoperability
  • Reasonable treatment: the expectation of fair, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory terms and conditions
  • Control: the essential facilities and common carriage classifications

In fact, in late July 2018, US Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) released a legislative proposal to regulate the tech platforms, with provisions that utilize many of these same concepts.

Openness as Safeguards Taxonomy

Finally, openness has been invoked over the years by policymakers, such as the Congress and the FCC in the United States. Often it has been employed as a means of “opening up” a particular market, such as the local telecommunications network, to benefit another market sector, like the information services and OTT industries.

Over time, these market entry and safeguards have fallen into certain buckets. The debates over access broadband networks is one interesting example:

  • definitional — basic/enhanced dichotomy
  • structural —Computer II structural separation
  • functional — Computer III modular interfaces 
  • behavioral — network neutrality
  • informational — transparency

In each case, it would be useful if stakeholders engaged in a thorough analysis of the scope and tradeoffs of openness, as defined from the vantage points of the telecom network owners, the online services, and the ultimate end users.

The larger point, however, is that openness is a potentially robust topic that will influence the ways all of us think about the decentralized Web.

Richard S. Whitt Whitt is an experienced corporate strategist and technology policy attorney. Currently he serves as Fellow in Residence with the Mozilla Foundation, and Senior Fellow with the Georgetown Institute for Technology Law and Policy. As head of NetsEdge LLC, he advises companies on the complex governance challenges at the intersection of market, technology, and policy systems. He is also president of the GLIA Foundation, and founder of the GLIAnet Project.