My colleague Gen Kanai and John Lilly have pointed me to an interesting article on Wired: The New Socialism: Global Collectivist Society Is Coming Online.

Of course, the author is not really using the word socialism in the same way we use it to refer to Eastern Europe 30 years ago, and I'm not sure that resorting to such a loaded word is really helping in starting a discussion, because we have to clarify so many things before the conversation can start. However, there is indeed matter for an interesting discussion:

We're (...) applying digital socialism to a growing list of wishes—and occasionally to problems that the free market couldn't solve—to see if it works. So far, the results have been startling. At nearly every turn, the power of sharing, cooperation, collaboration, openness, free pricing, and transparency has proven to be more practical than we capitalists thought possible. Each time we try it, we find that the power of the new socialism is bigger than we imagined.

There are a couple key differences in the Eastern Europe socialism and this new collectivist society.

  1. the old socialism is a story used by the elite to dominate the people. On the other hand the new collectivism is something done on a daily basis by the people, without any authority trying to impose it, without necessarily giving it a name.
  2. the old socialism took place in the real world, ruled by the economy of things, while the new collectivism is taking place on line, ruled by the economy of ideas. This makes a huge difference, summed up by this sentence:

In the economy of things, sharing means dividing. In the economy of ideas, sharing means multiplying.

In short, this new digital collectivism may work where the old socialism failed, just because in the online world it's much easier to be generous and give things away as you're not deprived of them.

edit: Mozilla lives in this world where sharing means multiplying. When you understand this, you realize that the utopia of what we do (building software given away for free) suddenly makes a lot more sense.