A Whole New World of Sharing
Imagine Facebook gave you a share in the company every time you used it. Post an update: get a share. Like an item: get a share. Go viral: loads of shares.
Does that seem odd? Does it seem wrong?
After all your engagement and activity on the platform is driving Facebook’s ability to capture revenue, which drives the value of its shares. Wouldn’t it be fair for you to participate in the value you are helping to create?
Would anybody ever do this?
People are doing it already. We’re going to do it too. What’s going on?
New Models of Ownership
Many of us have grown up thinking the available ownership models are binary: you can have the capitalist model or the communist model. Choose! Ignore everything else as too fringe, too inappropriate for the majority.
Things are changing. Current technology (i.e. ubiquitous internet access) made it easier for people to form communities around ideas on alternative ownership models. Future technology (primarily the blockchain) promises to make it far easier to join and govern communities, and distribute ownership and control.
Nathan Schneider and Trebor Scholz’s idea for “Platform Cooperatives” is currently the key driver of thought leadership in this space (they have a second conference later this year and a book to boot). Think of it as the Sharing Economy… but for reals this time.
Essentially, imagine if Uber was owned and controlled by the drivers. That shouldn’t be too hard, worker coops are not new (and are not nearly as ‘fringe’ as many of us think.)
Or what if iTunes was owned by the artists, the producers, the distributors and you the listener. After all, we are all contributing to the health of iTunes as a whole, so it’s feasible that we can all participate in both the excess economic value that spins off the platform and the governance decisions being made. That’s also happening right now at Resonate — a music streaming service owned by all of the participants.
Doesn’t this seem inherently more fair and just? More likely to produce balanced and sustainable outcomes?
The legal technicalities of establishing these platforms are not trivial. The FairShares Association offers technical guidance to help us build this now, rather than at some ideal point in the future.
AnyShare (previously MassMosaic) used the FairShares model to build a community sharing platform. Stocksy used a more traditional coop model by working closely with the British Columbia Coop Association and companies like Backlog have designed their own solution.
As blockchain technology evolves and smart contract programming languages become more stable, we will see platforms that are completely independent of ownership.
A DAO is a “distributed autonomous organization” and is, essentially, a bunch of code that operates independently but collects fees (through micro-transactions) for the service that it provides.
At such a point there are no shareholders or salaries as direct overhead. There is just the technical cost of servers and data transmission. People providing services to the DAO could receive payment through approval and governance mechanisms embedded into smart contracts or through incentive systems such as bitcoin’s mining protocol.
…& The Ownership Revolution
These options (and many, many more) are gaining in popularity and complexity for a number of reasons. But to put it simply: we’re done!
We’re fed up with a model that we can all see is broken. And when we looked to see if there were other options, it turned out there was!
Churchill said that “democracy is the worst form of government, except for all [the] others…” and the same can be said of “Extractive Capitalism”. Marjorie Kelly’s term for the form of capitalism and ownership that has dominated the last 100 years.
But times change and there are new and exciting possibilities ahead of us.
We’re building Brave — our platform for urgent acts of kindness — to be a platform coop. That means it will be owned and controlled by all of you: the users, the community ambassadors, the developers, artists and social media guru’s who contribute to the project. And the more you contribute, the more shares you’ll get.