A web of commons is about prioritising long-term access to and ownership of data, regardless of income or ability to pay. This design pattern does not necessitate the use of a ‘trustless’ blockchain token marketplace or exchange. If users need to participate in a marketplace to access knowledge, how is that different from the centralised Silicon Valley platform model that dominates the Web today? Who benefits when a new market is created, and who is enriched by that market? There may be some important uses for blockchain for other use cases, but it’s not well-suited to a knowledge commons.

It’s about understanding that trust is inherent in all of the technology we use and that there is no such thing as a ‘trustless’ technical system.

We know that technology is not neutral, which in practice means that you have to trust someone at some point. Any technology requires its users to trust the rules set by the software engineers, designers and investors. Those able to participate in these technical discussions represent existing power imbalances – mainly computer experts, white, male and from the US, China and Europe. To learn more, read the report by Article 19 about blockchain and freedom of expression.

The web of commons applies the theories and practices of digital knowledge as a commons, pioneered by Elinor Ostrom. If she were alive today, she might agree that many of our digital knowledge commons are facing severe privatisation. By learning from her work, we know that common resources can be managed by a group of trusted individuals. The web of commons design puts this theory into practice.