Decentralized Web Principles Launching at

Feb 17, 2021

Kelsey Breseman

Data Together coalesced in 2016 as a place for its members to explore the idea of a “civic layer for the web,” centered around community stewardship of data and decentralization technologies aimed at a better web. Since then, we have become a community space for deep and often technical discussion of values around trust, civic engagement, and other lenses on what a better internet might look like. In that vein, we are excited to support the new DWeb Principles launching today, which set out core values for a decentralized web:

Technology for Human Agency

  1. We stand for technology that enables the primacy of people as beneficiaries of the technology, by upholding their security, privacy and self-determination.
  2. We value open source code as a fundamental building block of an open and inclusive Web.
  3. We aim for peer-to-peer relationships, rather than hierarchical control and power imbalance.
  4. Our technologies must minimize surveillance and manipulation of people’s behavior, and optimize for social benefits and empower users to determine how and why their data is used.
  5. We believe that multiple technical means will be more effective than a single technical solution to achieve ethical and people-centric outcomes.

Distributed Benefits

  1. We believe that decentralized technologies will be most beneficial to society when the rewards and recognition of their success, monetary or otherwise, are distributed among those who contributed to that success.
  2. If that is infeasible, proportionate benefit should flow to the community at large.
  3. High concentration of organizational control is antithetical to the decentralized web.

Mutual Respect

  1. We support and encourage clear codes of conduct to ensure respectful behavior and accountability.
  2. We expect participants to remain mindful of, and take responsibility for, their speech and behavior, by acting out of respect for others and respecting physical and emotional boundaries.
  3. We stand for open and transparent organizational practices, motivations, and governance, in a manner that actively pursues equity, mutual trust, and respect.


  1. The objective of building a decentralized web is to protect human rights and empower people, especially those who experience systemic inequity and prejudice.
  2. We stand for people having agency over their own data and relationships, rights to free expression, privacy, and knowledge, as these are essential to human empowerment and dignity.
  3. We condemn the use of distributed tools for activities antithetical to human rights, such as human trafficking; sexual, mental, or physical abuse; and arms trading.
  4. We encourage building with harm-reduction in mind, and support the adoption of mechanisms that mitigate the potential for abuse, and consideration of those ‘not at the table’ — not connected, not users, and the disadvantaged.
  5. We encourage the development of tools and applications in many languages and forms, with a high degree of accessibility.

Ecological Awareness

  1. We believe projects should aim to minimize ecological harm and avoid technologies that worsen environmental health.
  2. We value systems that work towards reducing energy consumption and device resource requirements, while increasing device lifespan by allowing repair, recycling, and recovery.

These principles were drafted and revised across nearly a year of work, drawing from a community the Internet Archive has been cultivating since 2016. The draft principles passed through several phases including focus group workshops and several rounds of revision from members of the decentralized web community, including some EDGI members.

When I enter DWeb community spaces, I always get the sense that people are present not so much for the technology as for the social and political implications they hope decentralized technology can realize. This set of principles is an explicit nod to those implications. It is my fond hope that these principles and their descendants help the decentralization community to hold values at the core of the work.