When I was reading a text I was confronted with "maîtres des tuyaux"! What does it mean? I think this has a idiomatic meaning.

En croyant œuvrer pour lui-même ou pour la communauté, l’internaute produit en réalité de la valeur, dont tirent profit Google, Facebook ou Amazon, ces « maîtres des tuyaux » décrits par l’économiste Yann Moulier-Boutang. Si Google a enregistré au troisième trimestre un chiffre d’affaires de 15 milliards de dollars, il le doit donc autant aux millions d’utilisateurs de son moteur de recherche qu’aux 40 000 employés payés par la firme.


It seems that M. Boutang’s reference to “maîtres des tuyaux” comes from his book “L’Abeille et l’Economiste” which is full of metaphors comparing the society of bees to “l’économie de l’information / Le Capitalisme cognitive."

In English, the words “tube” and “hose” are used in at least two contexts in the field of beekeeping (apiculture). Beehives (ruches) are said to be comprised of cells and nesting “tubes,” and tubes/hoses are used to sedate and control bees with smoke.

Therefore, as weird as it might seem, to the extent that “tuyaux” can also be used in French to mean “tubes/hoses” in the field of beekeeping (apiculture), perhaps M.Boutang, in keeping with his bee/economy metaphor, was using “maîtres des tuyaux” to mean:

Beekeeper (Apiculteur)

in this one isolated context.

  • 1
    "Pipe" is used in English: e.g. google.com/search?q=long+fat+pipe is all about the performance of network connections (going back at least to the 1980s).
    – ChrisW
    Dec 30 '14 at 19:18
  • The word tuyau is used in French nowadays to designate the cables (fibre or other) that transport data. Maitres des tuyaux is a common enough ready made expression en French to designate those who master those means of communication (Google, Facebook ou Amazon, named in the quote). You are misreading the text you refer to. There's no relationship to bee keeping here and the author is speaking of "Les maîtres des tuyaux ... qui bloquent l’accès ou la circulation des données" (quote). Données ("data" in English) makes the point very clearly.
    – None
    Dec 31 '14 at 15:53

Il s'agit des tuyaux au sens informatique. Les tuyaux sont les canaux par lesquels circulent les données, dans ton exemple plus spécifiquement l'information. Les maîtres sont ceux qui dominent, économiquement parlant, la circulation des données dans ces canaux. Cette expression est assez fréquente en français. Voir un autre exemple d'emploi dans cet article :

Les sociétés de Telecom disent qu’elles veulent être maîtres des tuyaux et des données.

  • What do you prefer to use in English @Laure instead of "maîtres des tuyaux?" Dec 30 '14 at 9:04
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    En fait, vu le contexte, maîtres ne désignent pas ceux qui contrôlent la circulation, mais ceux qui la dominent. La nuance n'est pas de surveiller ou de restreindre ce que font les autres, mais d'être autonomes et de représenter une part prépondérante. Dec 30 '14 at 9:56
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    @MehdiAbbassi Pipe is used here like in the word "pipeline".
    – jlliagre
    Dec 30 '14 at 10:28
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    The translation may be tricky, as the expression is specific to the author. The context seems the Economy, and the "masters" get their revenue from the "pipes". Perhaps something like "Internet masters" (capital I) ? Someone who actually read the economist's work could come up with a good one ;-) And agreed, pipe sound weird. Dec 30 '14 at 10:59
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    @MehdiAbbassi Lots of things can circulate inside pipes (tuyaux in French), not only water or petrol. Computing data (and that's what this text by Yann Moulier-Boutang is about) flow through pipes (tuyaux).
    – None
    Dec 31 '14 at 15:56

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