Digital Commons as Core Ecosystem Strategy

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Marco Berlinguer distinguishes 3 hybrid forms of commons-market cooperation and co-existence:

  1. the Semi-Commons
  2. Commons as Shared Infrastructures for Businesses
  3. Digital Commons as Core Ecosystem Strategy


Marco Berlinguer:

"The third way to frame the hybridism between FOSS and capitalism describes the strategic use of FOSS to build an ecosystem. In these cases, it is usually a company that introduces a specific FOSS product, often maintaining control over its development. The strategy typically aims to attract users, developers, and business ecosystems around a new standard or platform, and is designed to exploit the growth or creation of complementary markets that are adjacent and correlated to the FOSS commons. Informational or “surveillance capitalism” (Zuboff 2015)—based on the hoarding and exploitation of user data—has been a fertile ground for these strategies. Google’s Android represents the most successful and spectacular example. The recent condemnation of Google by the European Commission for abusing its dominant position proves how such cross-subsidizing can be used as a kind of innovative dumping strategy to wipe out competitors, unleash various network effects and prepare the terrain for new forms of monopolization. But these modalities of competition are increasingly expanding, within but also beyond software. Facebook’s Open Compute Project, aimed at sharing knowledge and designs of hardware products for data centers, is an example. Another successful innovative entrepreneur who used this strategy is Elon Musk. He did so with Tesla in the automotive industry, aiming to break its resistance to electric cars and to mobilize the global investments necessary for a hugely costly transition, while leveraging Tesla’s leading position, especially in battery technology. He is also trying to use this same approach with his OpenAI initiative, which aims to catch up with the leading companies and emerging monopolies on data and artificial intelligence."

((Berlinguer, M. (2020). Commons, Markets and Public Policy, Transform! ePaper, January 2020.)