The Byway is a new path for buyers and sellers to reach out and engage safely and independently, without relying on Big Tech platforms. The same path can work between people and any organization, as well as each other.

From The Intention Economy (Harvard Business Review Press, 2012):

Over the coming years, customers will be emancipated from systems built to control them. They will become free and independent actors in the marketplace, equipped to tell vendors what they want, how they want it, where and when—even how much they’d like to pay—outside of any vendor’s system of customer control. Customers will be able to form and break relationships with vendors, on customers’ own terms, and not just on the take-it-or-leave-it terms that have been pro forma since Industry won the Industrial Revolution.

That is an ocean-boiling aspiration, and we can’t make it happen in the red—meaning blood-stained—parts of it; for example, by fighting Big Tech from the inside (where all of us who use computers and phones controlled by Apple, Google and other giants live). What we need instead is a blue ocean strategy. We have that in Bloomington, Indiana, where (Customer Commons board members) Doc and Joyce Searls are currently embedded as visiting scholars with the Ostrom Workshop of Indiana University.

There are three parts to the Byway project as it now stands (in July 2022): an online community (Small Town/mastodon), a matcher tool (Intently), and a local e-commerce “buyway.” (For more on that one, download the slide deck presented by Doc and Joyce at The Mill in November 2021. Or download this earlier and shorter one.)

We also see the Byway as complementary to, rather than competitive with, developments with similar and overlapping ambitions, such as SSI, DIDcomm, picos, JLINC, Dazzle and many others. Whatever we do will also involve new and extant open source code and open standards as well.

So stay tuned for more about life after cookies—and outside the same old bakery.