What would the internet look like if it weren’t dominated by a few huge corporations? And is such an internet even possible? A few smart folks at the Initiative for Digital Public Infrastructure have some really interesting ideas about what a more humane and diverse internet might look like. In a short, highly readable paper called “The Three Legged Stool: A Manifesto for a Smaller, Denser Internet”, they outline a different world and explain how to make it happen.The “three legged stool” refers to the three core principles of a better internet:
- A “pluriverse” — as in, plural universe — in which the large platforms are complemented (and challenged) by a diversity of Very Small Online Platforms, or VSOPs. “Just as we do not exclusively gather in shopping malls in the physical world, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are not the right place for every community and conversation online,” they explain.
- A “loyal client” that allows people to follow, read, and post as they wish, across multiple platforms. They describe this as analogous to how your email client — whether you use Gmail, or Outlook, or something small like Hey — allows you to email anyone, regardless of what email client they use. And the “loyal” part means you get to both pick a client and adjust its settings to align with your own preferences.
- A “friendly neighborhood algorithm store” where VSOPs can pay a reasonable price to access capabilities that, at present, only the big guys can afford: things like recommender systems, spam detection, and anti-abuse tools. Just as small businesses have access to high-powered tools for accounting, payroll, and other core functions, small online platforms should be able to provide high-quality experiences without having to spend billions to develop it all from scratch.
Front Porch Forum is a strong believer in a diverse and people-centric internet. We’re pleased to be working towards that future in the company of smart and committed folks like these. Let’s build a better internet together!