There have been other attempts at new social networks that have all failed.
How is Planetwork any different?
The founders of Planetwork have been studying and working on these issues since 1998, when they started organizing the first small invitational gathering in the San Francisco Presidio.
In May 2000 they convened the first international conference focused on using IT for global ecology. That seminal event in San Francisco spawned the LinkTank
, an invitational network made up of over 50 information technology and media professionals, who met for two years in San Francisco and NewYork, and in 2002 commissioned the Augmented Social Network (ASN
) whitepaper, presented at the Planetwork conference in 2003.
One of the key insight from the LinkTank Principles was that any truly global network must also be truly decentralized; like Einstein’s universe, its center must be everywhere and nowhere. The LinkTank statement of purpose remains unrealized and more needed than ever:We are dedicated to the creation and maintenance of a digital communications platform, operated as a public interest utility, that will strengthen civil society by enabling people to connect, communicate, make transactions, and self-organize in a manner that is consistent with the highest principles of democracy and reflects an enlightened understanding of the fragile beauty of our planet. We will bring together, develop, promote, and hold as a global public commons, software tools and infrastructure that facilitate the emergence, growth, and vitality of networks of individuals and organizations who share ecological and social justice values, as articulated in the Earth Charter
It was much easier to build centralized platforms, and the first ones to scale dominated and made it impossible for any others to challenge them.
When Planetwork originally pitched the ASN idea to the Soros Foundation in 2002, they had just embraced open source software, and could not even understand, much less imagine, the idea of an online social network for civil society.
Now, 15 years later, all of the implications that the members of the LinkTank foresaw have come to pass, everyone is familiar with social networks, and increasingly understand the failures of allowing them to be controlled by large commercial platforms.
At the same time, the word 'blockchain' has come to represent the very idea of decentralized systems, but many are gradually coming to understand that additional layers are also needed to build working systems, and that the template established by Bitcoin, where all solutions are based on tokenized assets may not actually be the most effective model for building community. Many efforts have also been distracted, or co-opted, by the promise of get-rich-quick ICO’s that absorbed much of the sincere motivation in a boom, and now bust, cycle.
Through it all, Planetwork has continued to focus on the core question. What are the real keys to building truly distributed systems for online information exchange needed by society, as well as truly new models for commence?
In 2015, while building a collaborative communication platform called Spherical, Victor and Jim realized how to put some of the same key pieces of technology that created blockchain together in a new way to create simple automated Internet data exchange agreements in JSON that they called “link contracts” and filed a patent on JLINC.