Iwas fortunate to witness the birth of the world wide web up close. Initially, there were only pages of text connected by hyperlinks, but no people. So I formed one of the first internet start-ups, Ubique, with the mission of adding people to the web by developing social networking software which offered instant messaging, chat rooms and collaborative browsing.Since then, internet civilisation has mushroomed. According to a report published last year by the International Telecommunications Union, there are now 3.2bn internet users worldwide. But what kind of civilisation has it become? Imagine that 300m Twitter users wanted to change its rules of conduct, or that a billion Facebook users wanted to change its management. Is this possible or even thinkable?