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Web2.0 software; property rights and freedom

But while the software in web2.0 applications is functioning like a natural law, it does not stem from nature. The laws of nature are not of human origin and cannot be changed by us. The laws embedded in software, however, can, just like the policies can; The virtual world is uniquely malleable.

Then how does change in these virtual laws come about ? Most often they are made by a lofty programmer-king adding a cool, new feature… Citizen users can apply in humble feature requests, like serfs could always beg on their knees to their landlords, but in the end it’s the programmer, manager or designer that decides. Not a spark of democracy there… Really ?

Of course there is. Contrary to real-life, voting with your feet is quite easy online; no border-checks, no refugee-camps, no xenophobia.

But wait… Where to go ? And what to take with you ? First of all there are no Web2.0 communities ran as democracies that I know of, and secondly one usually cannot take one’s data belongings across the application-border when one leaves… It’s like the; take only what you need during the journey of refugees, and not even that…

And even if one can take one’s data – whether by copy-paste, or as XML – then there is the problem that data needs software to be of use, and more often than not it needs quite specific software. Being free to take grandfather’s pendulum clock to the moon won’t do you much good, as it needs the earth’s gravity to be of any use as a clock. So people need to be able to take their current software, their current laws with them when they leave a virtual community to found a new one.

And in line with this we think that the freedom to fork is necessary as a minimal basis for freedom in the virtual realms of Web2.0 software. Just like property-right is in the real world. Users invest much effort, just like citizens in a state, and should thus be given rights in return. And especially for bigger communities we think user-rights should also entail a form of democracy.