Do you have a home on the Web?
I mean a page or a site that is yours. Not one that belongs to some .com, .org or .edu. One that’s truly yours, with a name you gave to it, nobody else has, and you fully inhabit.
Some of us do. I’m one of those, but with nothing to brag about. Go to searls.com and you’ll find a placeholder I’ve been updating every couple of years since the mid-’90s. Behind that façade is a garage full of files I keep stored online but blocked from search engines. That’s so I can find them from anywhere, or so I can point other people to them every once in a while.
Like the rest of us, most of what I’ve done on the Web are on the sites that belong others. The goods in those sites are mine in the sense that I’ve created them. But where they are is not mine. Not in the least.
Nearly all the pages called “home” are those of what in the trade we call enterprises. Mine here is in an enterprise called Harvard University. I thank it for that grace.
Still, in a literal sense, most of us are homeless here. In a literal way maybe all of us are, because we don’t own our domain names. We rent them. Searls.com will exist only so long as I, or my heirs, continue paying to keep it active.
This isn’t a bad thing. Hell, the benefits of the Web are enormous in the extreme. I’m not knocking those.
I am, however, saying we are homeless. Here.
Yet there is nothing about the Internet that says you can’t have a home there—which is a deeper here, underneath the Web.
This is important because we need to clearly and finally make a sharp distinction between the Web and the Internet. Because they are not the same. The Internet is what the Web sits on. And, big and broad as it is, the Web is not the only thing that can sit on the Internet. This was true for Web as it was in the first place, for what we called Web 2 in the early ’00s, and for what we call Web 3 today.
The Internet is different. And there are few limits to what the Internet can support, much as there are few limits to what can be built on land or float on ocean.
But there are limits to what we can build on the Web. One of those is a home for ourselves. A real home. One that does not require renting a domain name. One that lets us zero-base what we can do upon the infinite grace granted us by simply connecting to a worldwide network of networks that exists only to move packets of data from any end to any other end.
So let’s start thinking about that.
Some of us (present company included) are on the case already. We need more.
While we ponder that, here’s a thought: Maybe one reason VRM has been slow to happen is that we’ve been trying to do it on the Web.
The photo above is on Love Ranch Road, in the center of Wyoming. The story of the ranch, and the home now abandoned there, is central to John McPhee’s Rising from the Plains. I was there to shoot the solar eclipse of August 2017, which was at its totality there. The darkness on the horizon is the shadow of the moon, approaching from the west.