The socialization of cyberspace: From habitat to the full service network

Doug Crockford and Randy Farmer, Electric Communities

Seminar on People, Computers, and Design
Stanford University January 12, 1996


Electric Communities aims to develop an enabling software technology called the Cyberspace Operating System (or COS) which supports online markets and social communities. This technology will reside in a network environment which, by design, can scale to serve everyone in the world adequately.

COS is designed explicitly to provide a secure and robust platform for fully decentralized operation. Decentralization, a guiding principle of the Internet, is the only means by which the commercial and social environment can scale large enough to become a self-sustaining mass medium. However, decentralization can increase the vulnerability of systems to hacking; therefore, COS provides a rigorous security model that protects computers and their communications far more reliably than Firewalls and other security band-aids. This level of security will become increasingly important, because a significant portion of the world's monetary system is going to move into the Net. Electric Communities will establish COS as an open standard by publishing the specifications of the protocols it implements, by publishing a reference implementation, and by making the COS standard available to all parties without royalties.

COS has been developed on the basis of previous experience with Habitat, a graphical online multi-person environment, and AMiX (American Information Exchange), which provided the first electronic information marketplace for buying and selling business information and consulting services under open market conditions. These and other examples of virtual communities will be described and discussed.

For more details, see


Douglas Crockford is the president of Electric Communities, the world's foremost Cyberspace design and development company. Previously, Doug was Director of Technology at Lucasfilm Ltd. and Director of New Media at Paramount.

F. Randall Farmer is the VP for Services at Electric Communities, and has been building virtual communities for over 18 years, including multiplayer games, chat systems, and bulletin boards. He has been most deeply involved with 'habitats' (graphical virtual enviroments with avatars and has written extensively on the technology and sociology of these new worlds.


Titles and abstracts for all years are available by year and by speaker.

For more information about HCI at Stanford see

Overview Degrees Courses Research Faculty FAQ