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    The world wide web could have been a commons, and lots of people who work in the software and web sphere remain committed to the principles of P2P-commons in software code, digital data and digital processing capacity.

    Nevertheless, the corporates have invented ways to enclose, commoditise and monetise the internet, the web and the software sphere.

    They dominate it by establishing centralised, corporate-owned platforms handling huge amounts of digital traffic, which look – from the outside – a bit like commons.

    A cute trick!

    The P2P principle (‘peer-to-peer’) . .
    . . is that each digital device and each module of code or data can be a decentralised node (thus also, their human owner-organisers), acting independently in its relations with other devices, modules and packages of data.

    But the architecture of the web in fact has huge concentrations of servers, through which most traffic passes (one-to-many). And as it passes through these privately owned ‘passage points’, traffic is analysed for private, for-profit and for-surveillance purposes.

    Perhaps (this is a guess) there are around 50k people in the ‘free code’ and ‘free web’ world, working to make a flat internet of decentralised nodes – a drop in the ocean compared to people working for corporations and states, under centralist extractive logic, in centralist material architectures of digital traffic.

    The big corporate platforms – Google, Amazon, Facebook, WeChat, etc – have enclosed very large parts of what might have been commons. On the surface they still may look like spaces of free sharing and free choice, open for use free of charge. Actually they’re (largely) unregulated common pools. Users see the ‘front office’ while in the back office are systems collecting metadata about behaviour, which are used to target markets on us and maximise our consumption, or for surveillance, or for targeting ideological traffic. They’re honeytraps.

    They are not open (as they may seem), they are enclosed. They are not collaborative, they are corporate. They charge no fee to participate but they’re not ‘free’ in the free-code, P2P sense.

    There’s a crash coming – a slap from Mother Nature. This isn’t pessimistic; it’s realistic.

    The human impact on nature and on each other is accelerating and needs systemic change to reverse.

    We’re not advocating poverty, or a hair-shirt existence. We advocate changes that will mean better lives for almost everyone.

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