Enclosing digital commons

Microsoft enclosed an emergent software code commons: GitHub.

A regime of P2P production is a kind of commons (a form of protocol-based commons stewardship)

. . although the people who developed it in the software and internet sphere have generally been libertarian anarcho-federalists rather than associationist cooperator-mutualists. We said the vision of commoning was complex!

The go-to place for P2P software developer-collaborators – the shared repository of code – became Github, which seemed to be a commons of more than 24m code developers worldwide.

GitHub is an online service that allows developers to host their software projects. From there, anyone can download those projects and submit improvements. That functionality has made GitHub the center of the open-source software development world. page

Ten years after it was founded, the organisation and its operational infrastructure were bought in 2018 for $7.5bn by Microsoft. Microsoft now extracts value and control by extracting metadata (on users and their traffic within the worldwide, cross-sector system) in basically the same way that Facebook learned to do; Amazon and Google likewise.

If Microsoft is trying to understand the modern skills economy, GitHub could provide a compelling glimpse. page

Gitlab, SourceForge and Bitbucket are repositories not yet corporately owned and exploited in this way (though not under commons governance either) but a majority of developers seem to have remained within Microsoft’s sphere of metadata enclosure. The materials they work with – and the collaborations they work in – are now accessed under Microsoft’s regime of surveillance. The ‘commons’ of independent-minded code developers has become a huge industrialised (‘post-post-Fordist’) corporate infrastructure.

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