“I thought once everybody could speak freely and exchange information and ideas, the world is automatically going to be a better place,” Mr. Williams says. “I was wrong about that.”
The Silicon Valley entrepreneur first drew notice during the dot-com boom, for developing software that allowed users to easily set up a website for broadcasting their thoughts: blogging. By the time Google bought the company in 2003, more than a million people were using it.
Then came Twitter, which wasn’t his idea but was his company. He remains the largest individual shareholder and a board member.
After fame and fortune come regrets. Mr. Williams is trying to fix some things. So, in different ways, are Google and Facebook, and even Twitter. This is a moment for patches and promises.
The trouble with the internet, Mr. Williams says, is that it rewards extremes. Say you’re driving down the road and see a car crash. Of course you look. Everyone looks. The internet interprets behavior like this to mean everyone is asking for car crashes, so it tries to supply them.
His goal is to break this pattern. “If I learn that every time I drive down this road I’m going to see more and more car crashes,” he says, “I’m going to take a different road.”
But a new road may have other problems. It may, for instance, be a dead end.
Mr. Williams isn’t the only one trying to fix this mess, of course. If he and others can’t find a path forward, if they can’t solve what he calls “the architecture of content creation, distribution and monetization on the…