Towards a Distributed Internet

Douglas Rushkoff recently announced ContactCon in October, 2011 ( following up on his post ). Now, Venessa Miemis, in collaboration with Paul B. Hartzog, Richard C. Adler, and Sam Rose of the Future Forward Institute , are working to facilitate a series of dialogues, starting with the following question:

“What are the fundamental requirements and building blocks of a distributed internet?”

There are as many answers to this question as there are people to answer it. We hope to identify patterns and differences in those answers. A diversity of opinions and existing implementations is a benefit in many ways, and it gives us a way — not to force standards upon developers — but to discuss and encourage interoperability as a primary design component. An open and adaptable approach will allow all parties to bring their innovations and contributions to a sustained collaboration dedicated to creating and maintaining a new kind of internet.

This post is an invitation to join us in making a distributed internet a reality. It begins with an ongoing dialogue leading up to the conference. That dialogue will inform concrete steps toward a ‘next net’ that we hope to implement in the coming months.

Our intention is to make the best use of participants’ time, energy, and resources, leading up to and during ContactCon in October. The long term goal is to create a co-governed initiative, encouraging the co-creation of a truly distributed internet.

  • What do we mean by a distributed internet?
  • Should a “distributed internet” be one thing or many things (one internet or many internets)?
  • Should the first step towards it be a focus on software or on hardware?
  • Or, would it be better to build both hardware and software in parallel?
  • Could we make even more progress by building on the existing internet architecture ?
  • Or would an entirely new architecture offer a better set of advantages?
  • What about hybrid architectures of old and new?

None of the possibilities mentioned above are necessarily either/or. They are additive, either building on what exists today or constructing architectures that could exist in parallel with–even if independent from–today’s internet.

Next week we will try to provide an account of the discussion so far, and then ask what advantages or disadvantages these options may offer.

After that, in the coming weeks, we will be posing other questions, including:

  • What are the core principles of a distributed internet(s) (technology layers, philosophy, etc)?
  • Who are the players in terms of people implementing hardware and software; participating in co-governance; and exploring legal issues around emerging infrastructures, etc. ?

And there may be other questions we have not considered yet. Please suggest any that may occur to you.

Join the Conversation:

At the time of this post, you can respond in the following places:

1) Google Groups
[ ]

2) Here on this blog; and also the following (so far):

Emergent by Design [ ]

3) Quora

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