21 March 2011

Sharing the Credit for Sharing

Time magazine has one of those tiresome list thingies: "10 Ideas That Will Change the World" (pretentious, moi?). To its credit, it does correctly identify one of the key ideas that is already re-shaping our world:

it's the young who are leading the way toward a different form of consumption, a collaborative consumption: renting, lending and even sharing goods instead of buying them. You can see it in the rise of big businesses like Netflix, whose more than 20 million subscribers pay a fee to essentially share DVDs, or Zipcar, which gives more than 500,000 members the chance to share cars part-time.

So, where do they think this all started?

Even as Bush was announcing its birth though, the ownership society was rotting from the inside out. Its demise began with Napster. The digitalization of music and the ability to share it made owning CDs superfluous. Then Napsterization spread to nearly all other media, and by 2008 the financial architecture that had been built to support all that ownership — the subprime mortgages and the credit-default swaps — had collapsed on top of us.

Well, Napster was an important moment when the idea of sharing spread to content, but it was definitely following in the footsteps of the Internet and free software, particularly the latter. When Napster arrived, RMS had been articulating the moral imperative to share for a decade and a half, and his followers had been doing it for nearly as long.

So although it's good to see the idea of sharing singled out in this way, it's sad to see poor old Richard Stallman and the free software crowd once more written out of history.

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PV said...

Unfortunately, for the vast majority of the population, sharing software was just esoteric and geeky. It didn't matter until it reached the stuff they liked (i.e. music), which is why Napster is getting much of the credit in that article.
I would recommend (if you have not done so already) that you read this xkcd comic.
a Linux Mint user since 2009 May 1

Glyn Moody said...

@PV: sure; doesn't mean we shouldn't try to correct the record.

as for xkcd...well, yes....