ManyOne Networks was an Internet services (linked to from the Optimal World website) company headquartered in Los Gatos, California that declared Chapter 7 Bankruptcy on October 12, 2009. With technology purchased from the original company, a new ManyOne began operations on Sept. 13, 2011. Both the original company and its successor are pioneers in a new kind of business structure.
ManyOne was a successor to a project called One Cosmos. One Cosmos was a partnership between Joe Firmage, an Internet entrepreneur, Web visionary, and former CEO of USWeb, a $3B company at its peak, and Ann Druyan, a science writer and widow of astronomer Carl Sagan, who co-wrote the PBS series Cosmos with Sagan and later co-produced the 1997 film Contact, starring Jodie Foster.
One Cosmos was to be a science-based education and entertainment portal using advanced graphics and other innovative Web capabilities. The inspiration, according to Firmage, came from Sagan’s reference in Cosmos to an Encyclopedia Galactica—a term borrowed from Isaac Asimov—referring to a fictional repository of universal knowledge. Approximately $11M in venture capital was spent before One Cosmos was terminated by its Silicon Valley financial backers during the Internet bubble collapse of 2000.
The concept of One Cosmos was merged with BarterFarm, an internet services company founded by Jon Firmage and David Eilers, at the beginning of 2002 to form ManyOne Networks. Ideas gained from One Cosmos formed the conceptual basis for ManyOne Networks, while Barterfarm provided other intellectual property. Recent evidence shows that both companies had similar business models.
The creation of an Encyclopedia Galactica has been replaced by a more ambitious Digital Universe project, described in company announcements as a "PBS of the Web." In addition to an online encyclopedia, the Digital Universe aspires to become an archive of information, a multimedia learning center, news source, and directory of the Web. To create a domain of credible, non-commercial, advertising-free information, the volunteer efforts of a world-wide network of experts and educators (referred to as “stewards” by the company) is necessary. To enable this, a second foundation, the non-profit Digital Universe Foundation, has been set up by the company.
The Digital Universe Foundation is to be the organization that runs a worldwide stewardship program, and is to evolve independently of ManyOne Networks even though the rich-media capabilities of the ManyOne browser are tailored to deliver the optimal experience of Digital Universe content, such as 3D rendering. The entire software and technology is slated to become open-source and access to the Digital Universe via other browsers is planned, although with a loss of some presentation features. The ManyOne browser itself will be free.
In March 2006, the Associated Press reported that to fund the venture, the Digital Universe site would "sell monthly subscriptions that let visitors get additional content and features, many of them offered by for-profit third parties, such as film producers, game makers, map providers and book publishers." The monthly fee was to include an e-mail service offered by Digital Universe, and academics and others contributing content were to get 25% of the proceeds.
During 2006, ManyOne shifted into building what it called the "Public Internet Media System", which it described as "a service that empowers non-profits, companies, agencies and individuals to build and operate financially self-sustaining community and web portals." In a January 2006 press release, the company had similarly said "partners will be able to quickly create specialized portals for their members, complete with all the multimedia capabilities of the Digital Universe, Internet access, world class e-mail, Universal Instant Messaging and 24/7 customer and technical support. They were also supposed to be able to add specialized multimedia or ordinary website content, if they chose.
In May 2007, Time Magazine reported that in addition to third-party portals, the company planned to generate revenue by providing optional build-your-own-website service and email hosting for $7.95 a month.
- "ManyOne Networks, Inc.". Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved 23 June 2010.
- Peta Owens-Liston, "Cataloguing the Best of the Web", Time Magazine, May 15, 2007
- Dan Goodin, "Website aims to build non-profit research storehouse", Associated Press, March 5, 2006
- "Our Vision", ManyOne.net.