WorldBrain’s vision is a well informed and less polarised society where everyone can use their full attention to create knowledge and make sustainable, effective and compassionate decisions.
Our mission is to make it faster for people to organise, share and discover trustworthy and perspective-rich content on the web & support an internet where individuals enjoy data ownership, privacy & freedom to choose software providers without lock-ins.
Table of Content
- The world we see
- Our vision for personal knowledge management
- Our vision for collaborative knowledge management
- An economic incentive on quality content — The time is ripe for micropayments
- Contributing to WorldBrain
1. The world we see:
On the internet today, we citizen suffer from information overload. Everyone is bombarded with 100s of topics on a daily basis that are difficult to make sense of. As a result we become victims of misinformation and social polarisation, and as a society we can’t solve our major challenges & conflicts.
We think technology alone can’t solve these problems — you can’t build a fact-checking algorithm that is 100% correct all the time, and you can’t solve it with more “gamification” or “blockchain technology”. To break this cycle it requires changing the economics of the platforms and services we use.
The majority of digital tools we use (e.g. Facebook/Google) are funded with millions in upfront Venture Capital money to gain market share/dominance with free services. Most business models left at that scale require you to share all your personal data & attention, like targeted advertisement.
To reach that scale, these services need to create powerful data lock-ins, addiction mechanisms or network effects that make it hard/impossible to leave. Their features also need to be generalised enough to work for the billions of people, so they leave no ability for the individual to control their experience by changing features and algorithms. Theses lock-ins and limitations make it impossible for you to organise & collaborate on knowledge the way you individually process information, and thus to ease the information overload you experience.
We see the root cause in the economic reward models of those companies and services: To share success between stakeholders, these companies issue shares or stocks. The more the company value or profit increases, the more shareholders make profit. There is also no clear limit on those returns so every stakeholder will try to optimise for maximum profits and growth or their assets. Losing you as user by giving you control over your data or the addiction-level of algorithms is therefore economically disincentivised because it would directly lower the returns of investors.
If we want to grow our individual and collective ability of sense-making and decision-making we must nurture a software ecosystem where users experience no lock-ins and can iteratively adapt knowledge tools to their needs.
2. Our vision for personal knowledge management
An ecosystem of interoperable knowledge tools where users can effortlessly switch between providers so they get increasingly perfect tools for their workflow needs.
The way people organise & share information is individual to every person on this planet. No single tool, service or platform can achieve both the level of scale and user centric adaptability necessary to give every person the perfect tool for their needs.
To get there we need 1000s of interoperable and independent tools that people can freely migrate between to iteratively find tools better adapted to their needs for organising, processing and sharing information.
We know, our software Memex will just be one of them.
WorldBrain.io’s goal is to set the right technological and economical conditions for a diverse ecosystem of knowledge software to emerge and grow. We aim to do this by following 2 guidelines:
- No VC money — no exit.
WorldBrain.io does not sell tradable shares so the main goal of our company does not become maximising shareholder profit or lock you into our services. Instead we use a reward model called Steward Ownership. It prevents our company from ever being sold and rewards investors with a capped profit share.
The return cap gives us the economic freedom put people over profit and create open systems where users can migrate to services that suit their needs better or integrate with other (competing) services. This is because unlike with classic investment models, more profit of our company does not mean more profit for our investors.
More information you find here.
- Data Ownership & User centric adaptability
To give users freedom to innovate with their data and new tools, the most basic requirement is full control over where and how their personal data is stored, and to access it. It enables people to experiment with new data models, technologies and features and adapt their sense making tools to their personal context without the oppressive dominance of a feature roadmap that is geared to please millions/billions of other users. Just imagine you could build your own UI, features and algorithms for your Facebook feed, or build an entirely different social network that still can connect with people in old ones. This is the level of openness required.
Steps we’ve taken:
We raised €300k without giving away shares
Through a mix of angel, family and grant investments we raised ~300.000€ over the years. Although we have not fully transitioned into the Steward Ownership model, we still own 100% of our shares. The next step to complete the transition is to give a golden Veto share to the Purpose Foundation which will permanently prevent our company from ever being sold.
See a list of our funders.
Memex & Memex Go
All data stored by Memex and Memex Go is saved on your devices by default, unless you optionally share with other parties or sync it. Our entire software stack is open-source and sync between your devices is end2end encrypted. You can backup your data to any of your favourite cloud providers in a JSON format.
StorexHub is our offline-first API and plugin platform that allows you to work with Memex data outside of the browser. But it also works between different apps, making it a bit like an offline-first Zapier. But with the difference that it can storer all processed data so you can reuse or innovate on it later.
For example you can query Memex data, listen to changes or write to its database. The plugins you can build can integrate with other transport protocols, like IPFS, or translate the data into other data models, like the open annotation data model.
This enables use cases like:
- Save all liked or shared tweets in Memex
- Save all urls in my Telegram channel into a collection & full-text index them
- Put all your pages tagged with “todo” into your favorite todo-list app
- Export/Import your data from Hypothes.is.
- Share all archived websites on IPFS, Dat or Arweave.
- Build a VPN that funnels all visited urls from all your devices into Memex
3. Our vision for collective knowledge management
The long-term mission of WorldBrain.io is to enable people to overcome information overload and the influence of misinformation through collaborative online-research.
We can’t research and understand all the topics we are exposed to well enough to not fall for misinformation. But we all are experts in some of those topics and could help each other understand them better — if we were able to share our existing knowledge more effectively with each other.
With Memex we want to enable you to access the previous research of the people you trust in a specific topic and compare it with others to understand nuances and break out of filter bubbles. So for example when researching a new topic like the COVID-19 virus, you could do a web search in the most useful websites, papers and social media posts of the world experts, and see all their notes and highlights on those articles. You could engage in conversation with your peers and those experts too.
Most important to this architecture is: There is no central quality score provided by WorldBrain.io to be gamed or trolled. All knowledge exchange is peer2peer and you as an individual or community decide on the algorithms and software that evaluates quality of incoming content and reputation of people. Some might want to have a lot of peer recommendations, others trust fact-checking scores provided by an algorithm more.
However also here, we are aware that technology and the people are not enough to shift the gear towards more qualitative content. We need to work on the economics too.
4. An economic incentive on quality content
The time is ripe for micropayments
There have been many attempts to create new business models for content creators on the web, and the rise of digital subscriptions show that people are willing to pay for quality content.
Many visionary companies dreamed of implementing micropayments as the holy grail of online content business models — a dream that arguably still has not materialised. We believe their time has come.
Notably, Flattr, Blendle or Brave’s Basic Attention Token are services that have tried to make them work. We think they all had some great elements but failed to make them work at scale for reasons that potentially could be fixed with Memex.
Flattr allowed people to determine how much they want to pay per month on their media consumption and then press a button each time they wanted to pay an article. The money was then split between those tipped websites. The good thing about their approach is that it allows every users to individually decide how much they want/can pay, and is very inclusive to different economic abilities. But pressing a button on each article creates a decision overload and fatigue that gets tiring to users — so only the most passionate users stay and use it.
Blendle was a service that bundled the subscriptions of many providers and distributed a monthly fixed fee across the things people read. A bit like Spotify does. The obvious problem is that users can’t pay anyone outside of those fixed subscriptions.
Brave is already much better since it automatically distributes the monthly budget to websites based on how long you stay on a website. However Brave’s system is (currently) limited to just one browser and has limited data to make a decision on who and what to pay for. On top of that it uses a crypto token that is prone to speculative value fluctuations which limit its real world usage.
With Memex we may be able to combine the best of all those worlds.
Memex would work across multiple browsers, desktops and phones, and draw from interaction data of your entire knowledge store, like the pages you like, share on social media or chat logs, annotate on, curate in lists or tag
It could automatically distribute a user defined amount of money to content creators ranging from a small blogger to a big online newspaper. But it could also pay content curators. So the people that you follow and constantly get quality content from. We assume this approach can create a whole economy for people that are usually not able to profit from the years and decades of experience that flows into evaluating and curation quality information.
With such a system micropayments could become feasible because the user experience sould reduce the decision of a user to one:
How much can I pay?
Memex is under active development. View our Roadmap.
If you are intrigued by what we are doing, or an active user of our software, we’d love to hear from you.
There are several ways to contribute:
As a developer
Check out our roadmap and see which features you’d like to work on.
Visit our GitHub respository for more information
As a funder
You want to financially contribute to our development?
Check out our brand new OpenCollective page.