Some Simple Economics of Open Source

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Abstract

There has been a recent surge of interest in open source software development, which involves developers at many different locations and organizations sharing code to develop and refine programs. To an economist, the behavior of individual programmers and commercial companies engaged in open source projects is initially startling. This paper makes a preliminary exploration of the economics of open source software. We highlight the extent to which labor economics, especially the literature on ‘career concerns’, and industrial organization theory can explain many of these projects’ features. We conclude by listing interesting research questions related to open source software.

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