The Hierarchies project was built to expose the deep links between corporations, brands, products, and their negative effects on the world.
In the early 2000s I was really inspired by projects like They Rule, Adbusters, and ®™ark. These groups did a great job of presenting heavy information in an artful way. An ®™ark project that really tickled my fancy was something they called The Mutual Funds. It was a specialized bulletin board for posting your arty-activist projects and recruiting help. The SIXD project described a web site that I had been brainstorming already and after I met Aphid on their board our site took off.
We developed Hierarchies.org around a public submission model with volunteer editors to double-check the data. It let you visualize the web of ownership in the corporate world using Graphviz-generated SVG images – this was enough ahead of the times that you had to install an Adobe plugin to view SVG in the browser. Another interest of mine at the time was the Semantic Web so naturally Hierarchies provided RDF and RSS data on all of its entities. You would have even found FOAF metadata in the entity pages.
In the end Hierarchies didn’t build up enough momentum to track the rapidly evolving corporate landscape. Even though it didn’t grow to be very well known I’m still really proud of the effort. I loved the detective work involved in figuring out how corporations were linked together. I think our greatest achievement was that for years its pages were in top-5 search results for many well-known brands.
Sadly, the Hierarchies.org database has been lost so the only way to explore it is via the Internet Archive.