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Or, more precisely, he's still trying to make it happen. Clark has a day job, working for a company that consults for online auctions. (He makes no money from Freenet, and since he doesn't claim to own it, he can't sell it.) He spends much of his free time--along with volunteer code writers from as far away as Stockholm and Houston--working out Freenet's kinks. It's in a creaky early version right now, so hard to use that only some 35,000 people have hooked up. High on Clarke's to-do list: create a search engine so users won't need to consult informal lists like "Steve's Key Index" that volunteers have assembled.
As for actual content, the pickings are still slim, but it's not hard to see Freenet's vast potential. Clarke scrolls down an index looking for items of interest and calls out what he finds. The Communist Manifesto. The U.S. Constitution. A document purporting to be a British Intelligence report on Libyan spying activities in Britain. A lot of files have names suggesting they're pornographic; a few seem to be child porn. There are files that appear to contain secret "OT" documents of the Church of Scientology. If they're real, they illustrate Freenet's power: the Scientologists have obtained court orders in the past to yank such documents off the Net. Another file purports to be secret coding from Microsoft, also a vigilant defender of its copyrights. Clarke says he's never been contacted by Microsoft or any of the other entities whose content has been posted, and he doesn't expect to be. After all, he doesn't control what gets posted on Freenet. "There's nothing I can do, and they probably know that," he says.
Does this mean content providers will be steamrollered by Freenet? Not necessarily. Many media experts say people who create music and other copyrighted material will eventually find a way to charge for it. "Generating content is a valuable service," says Eric Scheirer, a media and Internet analyst at Forrester Research. "And as long as it is, there will always be ways to monetize it." What's more, anonymous systems like Freenet are inherently vulnerable. "The record companies could flood Freenet with a million copies of static," Scheirer suggests, "and title them The New Britney Spears Song."
It turns out that the brave new world of free-flowing information can be a bit disconcerting, even to infoanarchists. Clarke stops at a file named "Ian Clarke's Credit Card Numbers." He isn't worried, he says confidently. He's sure it's a joke, that it doesn't really contain his card numbers. Well, almost sure. He opens the file and checks. "I was right," he says with a trace of relief in his voice. "It was just a joke."