October 24, 2022

The internet hasn’t turned out the way it was supposed to.

In its earliest incarnation, before some Wall Street Journal readers were born and the rest had fewer automatically renewing digital subscriptions, it was supposed to be distributed, user-controlled and, in a word, democratic.

Then came Big Tech and the attendant centralization, windfall profits, culture wars, misinformation campaigns, Congressional hearings, EU rulings, antitrust battles and techno-nationalism that have characterized the past decade.

What if there was another way?

What if, to take but one example, users of social networks collectively owned them, or at least could vote on how they were run and what kind of speech they allowed? And what if similar questions could be asked of just about any tech company whose primary product is software and services—whether financial, cloud computing, or even entertainment-related?

These are the questions investors, engineers and more than a few starry-eyed tech dreamers are asking themselves—among them former

Twitter

Chief Executive

Jack Dorsey,

whose interest in these questions helps explain his sudden departure from Twitter.

The answers are taking the form of services and apps that are the first outlines of what their creators hope will someday eat the internet completely: a distributed, democratically ruled “Web 3.0”…

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