Tom MacWright

tom@macwright.org

Power

Some people choose to spend a lot of their time writing open source software and giving it to the world, freely. In this exchange, they aren’t quite employees, or volunteers, or entrepreneurs. It’s something new.

They build essential infrastructure, and people use it: companies, individuals, people just getting started in their programming careers. Companies especially benefit from these people’s free work, and in exchange the people who do that work get…

Well, nothing.

No, that’s not right: they get power.

They can delete projects, like how Azer Koçulu deleted left-pad, and cause some chaos. They can ban bad companies from their communities, like how entropic might ban Palantir. They can add whatever they want to their projects, like ads that fund their work, as Feross tried. They can ban those people with license text, like Jamie Kyle did.

Or maybe they can’t. NPM will intervene to make sure that the interests of companies are protected. The open source license that took a political stand is reverted to one that’s loose and company-friendly. The message is clear: keep working for free. Don’t quit: that would be irresponsible. Don’t protest: that’s disruptive. Your power, your control of your work, will disappear if you try to use it.

August 30, 2019   @tmcw