Ross Ulbricht’s last moments as a free man were noisy enough to draw a crowd. Employees at the Glen Park branch of the San Francisco library heard a crashing sound and rushed to the science fiction section, expecting to find a patron had hit the floor. Instead, they found a handful of federal agents surrounding a slender 29-year-old man with light brown hair and wearing a T-shirt and jeans.
Before it all came crashing down, Marc Collins-Rector had convinced almost everyone that he was a visionary. By 2000, he had raised millions for a precursor to YouTube, called Digital Entertainment Network, or DEN, with the pioneering idea to distribute video entertainment not through theaters or television but on the internet.