The more I think about the nature of the internet the more cryptic the matter becomes for me. I am sad to report that there are no pristine "commons" online, rather it is all an urban sprawl of competing issues and money. The only commons that exist online are the ones made by man, a sort of Central Park of Enlightenment.
A few weeks ago I started this blog after an engaging discussion with Thomas "cmdln" Gideon. In that discussion we both seemed to have completely different perspectives. I have taken a much expanded stance on the matter. Thomas was, rightly so, concerned with the success of the Creative Commons and its ability to establish and maintain lively exchange and creativity within the commons.
I agree with this assessment, but I was attempting to apply the the term "commons" to the entirety of the the Internet. In a sense I was arguing that the only "commons" that are currently accounted for are the Creative Commons.
The rest of the internet is still a giant publicly-viewable space with little common regulation. This makes the web a sort of wide open communication space. Where ideas are posted for all to view publicly; yet people still stake claims, however slight or benevolent, to what views are expressed or shared below that publicly viewable opinion. This impedes free expression no matter how slight, or inconsequential.
As I've suggested before there is no real consensus as to what is classified as "communication" and what constitutes "property". And in the middle of this problem is another, the internet has no roads, or in other words, there are no "commons". There are no neutral websites or even borders! Each and every web site must be owned by someone, a "club member". And that website is next to an infinite number of other websites. There is no common ground.
This is all contrary to a classic view of the commons that has at its heart an idea that there is territory beyond the influence of humans, the forests, mountains and other lands. The internet of course has none of these, all "terrain" online is developed by humans. Every last bit of it is private enterprise.
The point of all this, is that we cannot rely on the classic definition of a "neutral" or "common" territory or terrain
After all a true commons would have absolutely no barrier to intangible communication, we should be free to say whatever we like wherever we like, within the bounds of law (If a tree falls in the woods...). However this is not the case, every website on the internet has a different standard as to what is allowed "communication", and to what extent that competing statements might be regulated. To be blunt, there is no such thing as a First Amendment online. All speech is held at the behest of the web-master of whatever web-page you are on.
I find these odd and competing sentiments confounding, and as we cannot view whole internet as a commons I am unable to confirm my thought that the internet is a "common" or shared entity. Despite the desires of the founders of the internet, they designed a deeply flawed social system. They failed to foresee the problem of property vs. communication, and they left no part of the system as "common" to all (in fact, ironically enough they actively fought against such a notion). They designed the internet to be a collective of privately held and privately run fiefdoms with no commons between them and that is unfortunately how things stand today.