"The internet is like common land which can be used by everyone.
As long as nobody takes too much of the land, or grazes too many
sheep or cows, then everyone can benefit. However, the first person
to graze too many sheep gets an immediate advantage, for one year
at least: their sheep grow faster and they make more money. The end
result is that the commons are destroyed, and everyone loses out.
But the certain knowledge of long term disaster may not be
enough to deter the first mover who sees a large short term
"We can see this happening already with Linux, one of the
internet's big success stories. For eight years the open
source operating system created by Linus Torvalds in 1991 was
worked on by thousands of programmers who wanted to contribute to
the public good. But while the source is free, corporate users want
to buy technical support for it, and a number of companies offering
Linux services, such as Red Hat, have gone public with massively
inflated share prices."
"As a result, the thousands of programmers who have contributed
to Linux over the years are now asking where their share of the
money is. The move to demutualise Linux, just as the
building societies were demutualised, is just around the
corner. And, as with the building societies and the banks, it
will be the current owners - the few who own Linux-focused
companies or whose programming made it into the latest distribution
- who will benefit. Those who contributed in the early days, who
worked to build the commons in the first place, will be forgotten
as virtual fences are erected."
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