Capital and the Enclosure of the Ethereum Software Commons

From P2P Foundation
Jump to navigation Jump to search

* Article: Capital and enclosure in software commons: Linux & Ethereum. By Trent. January 9th, 2024


"Entities which extract profits from software commons like Linux and Ethereum have the greatest incentive and capacity to co-opt them."


The Egregore

via Trent:

"It’s interesting to frame the resource and its structure as an entity, or an “egregore.” This is a non-physical being which “exists in virtue of the collective ritual activities of a group yet operates autonomously, according to its own internal logic, to materially influence and control the group’s activities. The group creates the egregore, and the egregore creates the group, in a self-reinforcing feedback loop." (Wright, 2021)

Case Study: Red Hat


"Founded in 1993, Red Hat (RH) has decades of Linux grassroots experience. They’ve used that to build what some call the most financially successful open source company, leading to a $34B acquisition in 2018. However, this path to success has often come at the expense of commons stability. Consider this 10 year progression:

In 2014, RH “partnered” with CentOS: a struggling distro project. RH believed the state of the project reflected poorly on their work. In exchange for legal support, job security for contributors, and stability, Red Hat was given a permanent board majority and de facto control of the project.

In 2019, RH was acquired by IBM. Company posts from the time claimed that “Red Hat’s mission and unwavering commitment to open source will remain unchanged.”

The honeymoon didn’t last very long. In 2020 RH deprecated CentOS, which had by then been reinvigorated as a popular community distro. Future work and support for past releases was terminated. RH directed previous CentOS users to CentOS Stream, a new project missing most of the “Red Hat Enterprise Linux” (RHEL) compatibility developers were looking for.

In 2023 RH restricted access to RHEL source code - their flagship product. Many in the Linux community believe this violates the spirit of long-standing GPLv2 licensing norms. Even though RH employees “were also conflicted about the new policy,” the external interests of the commercial actor ultimately trump their employees’ well-intentioned posture towards commons norms.

A relationship which depended on the health of the commons became more clearly representative of investors and capital.

Seeking resources to sustain their efforts, grassroots communities may unwittingly shape themselves to accommodate entities uninterested in the health of the commons. When priorities shift, capital is happy to disengage from committing resources. This dependency dynamic introduces the risk of structural instability for the greater self-reliant commons.

At the end of the day, capital’s bottom line is top of mind."


More information