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30min: Free Software and the Network Effect: fight it or ride it?

Free Software and the Network Effect: fight it or ride it?


No free software user is an island. This has been true always, but never has this been truer than lately. With the advent of social walled gardens, positioning themselves as public infrastructure used by more and more other services, the network effect is stronger an enemy than ever. It cannot be ignored, but can it be defeated? Or, perhaps, co-opted?

The Four Freedoms, while being the cornerstone of the free software movement, only deal with software and ignore the question of data. This is understandable: when they have been created, data almost always resided under users' control, and the real problem was making sure users have the necessary, freedom-preserving tools to work with it. Today, we use free software tools to deal with data that effectively falls outside of our control. Often we cannot access the data directly, export it, import it somewhere else. Garden walls do not have windows, or very small ones only. Even free software itself is more and more often being developed using walled gardens -- GitHub being one example. And, more and more free software is being used to build walled gardens themselves. As is often the case, there is no easy solution. But there are things we as the free software community can do, within the community itself, and as part of our policy work, to push things in the right direction. This requires added focus on some of the values that seem to have taken the back seat in the free software world: compatibility and interoperability. We need to put "social" back into libre social networks, among others. It is time free software tools became compatible with each other. Good news is, some work is already being done.


Day: 2016-09-04
Start time: 11:45
Duration: 00:30
Track: Beyond Code



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