Today’s Internet scarcely resembles the mythological image of it as a fundamentally democratic system. Instead, users are at the whims of a small number of providers who control nearly everything about users’ experiences on the Internet. In response, researchers and engineers have proposed, over the past decade, many systems to re-democratize the Internet, pushing control over data and systems back to the users. Yet nearly all such projects have failed. In this paper we explore why: what are the goals of such systems and what has caused them to run aground?