The Circle is a dystopian novel set in the near future about a very controlling powerful tech company led by the “Three Wise Men”: Tom Stenton, Eamon Bailey and Ty Gospodinov (the founder of the company).
Watchers of the Circle wondered, Where is Ty and what is he planning? These plans were kept unknown until they were revealed, and with each successive innovation brought forth by the Circle, it became less clear which had originated from Ty himself and which were the products of the increasingly vast group of inventors, the best in the world, who were now in the company fold.
Most observers assumed he was still involved, and some insisted that his fingerprints, his knack for solutions global and elegant and infinitely scalable, were on every major Circle innovation. He had founded the company after a year in college, with no particular business acumen or measurable goals. “We used to call him Niagara,” his roommate said in one of the first articles about him. “The ideas just come like that, a million flowing out of his head, every second of every day, never‑ending and overwhelming.”
Ty had devised the initial system, the Unified Operating System, which combined everything online that had heretofore been separate and sloppy—users’ social media profiles, their payment systems, their various passwords, their email accounts, user names, preferences, every last tool and manifestation of their interests. The old way—a new transaction, a new system, for every site, for every purchase—it was like getting into a different car to run any one kind of errand. “You shouldn’t have to have eighty‑seven different cars,” he’d said, later, after his system had overtaken the web and the world.
Instead, he put all of it, all of every user’s needs and tools, into one pot and invented TruYou—one account, one identity, one password, one payment system, per person. There were no more passwords, no multiple identities. Your devices knew who you were, and your one identity—the TruYou, unbendable and unmaskable—was the person paying, signing up, responding, viewing and reviewing, seeing and being seen. You had to use your real name, and this was tied to your credit cards, your bank, and thus paying for anything was simple. One button for the rest of your life online.
To use any of the Circle’s tools, and they were the best tools, the most dominant and ubiquitous and free, you had to do so as yourself, as your actual self, as your TruYou. The era of false identities, identity theft, multiple user names, complicated passwords and payment systems was over. Anytime you wanted to see anything, use anything, comment on anything or buy anything, it was one button, one account, everything tied together and trackable and simple, all of it operable via mobile or laptop, tablet or retinal. Once you had a single account, it carried you through every corner of the web, every portal, every pay site, everything you wanted to do.
TruYou changed the internet, in toto, within a year. Though some sites were resistant at first, and free‑internet advocates shouted about the right to be anonymous online, the TruYou wave was tidal and crushed all meaningful opposition. It started with the commerce sites. Why would any non‑porn site want anonymous users when they could know exactly who had come through the door? Overnight, all comment boards became civil, all posters held accountable. The trolls, who had more or less overtaken the internet, were driven back into the darkness.
The Circle, Dave Eggers, 2013.