How do horizontal Free Software communities respond to a takeover?

In march 2021 the libreboot project was taken over by one of the core developers and went from a democratic governance to being controlled by a single person. In July 2021 the same happend to the misskey project. Such a “coup” is a bug in how a democratic project is setup: it should not be possible for a single person to take control of the entire project. But it is possible, by design, in horizontal communities such as Enough or fedeproxy.

Although the people who lost their influence over libreboot could have forked the repository and start a new one to keep going, they apparently did not. There were a few assets that could not be forked:

  • The domain name
  • The IRC channel
  • The wikipedia page

Bootstraping a new project with a new domain name, an empty IRC channel and a two year period to build enough of a reputation to deserve a wikipedia page is a lot of work. Enough work to put the person who wants to fork at such a disadvantage that it effectively prevents it from happening. In democratic communities this centralization is acknowledged and considered acceptable. There is no need to fork because the voting process gives everyone the power to control these centralized resources.

Online horizontal communities must be designed to fork as a whole because there is no way to prevent someone from taking over exclusive resources such as the domain name. If there was a way, the community would not be horizontal, by definition. However the concept of a fork cannot be applied to a centralized resource (e.g. domain name), it is only meaningful for decentralized resources (e.g. DVCS). It follows that all centralized resources must be removed from horizontal communities otherwise their ability to fork is diminished and it opens a path to the tyranny of structurlessness.