Advanced Search
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

Half a Century of Public Software Institutions: Open Source as a Solution to Hold-Up Problem

Contents:

Author Info

  • Michael Schwarz
  • Yuri Takhteyev
Registered author(s):

    Abstract

    We argue that the intrinsic inefficiency of proprietary software has historically created a space for alternative institutions that provide software as a public good. We discuss several sources of such inefficiency, focusing on one that has not been described in the literature: the underinvestment due to fear of holdup. An inefficient holdup occurs when a user of software must make complementary investments, when the return on such investments depends on future cooperation of the software vendor, and when contracting about a future relationship with the software vendor is not feasible. We also consider how the nature of the production function of software makes software cheaper to develop when the code is open to the end users. Our framework explains why open source dominates certain sectors of the software industry (e.g., the top ten programming languages all have an open source implementation), while being almost none existent in some other sectors (none of the top ten computer games are open source). We then use our discussion of efficiency to examine the history of institutions for provision of public software from the early collaborative projects of the 1950s to the modern "open source" software institutions. We look at how such institutions have created a sustainable coalition for provision of software as a public good by organizing diverse individual incentives, both altruistic and profit-seeking, providing open source products of tremendous commercial importance, which have come to dominate certain segments of the software industry.

    Download Info

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w14946.pdf
    Download Restriction: no

    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 14946.

    as in new window
    Length:
    Date of creation: May 2009
    Date of revision:
    Publication status: published as Half a Century of Public Software Institutions: Open Source as a Solution to Hold-Up Problem MICHAEL SCHWARZ1, YURI TAKHTEYEV2 Article first published online: 19 JUL 2010 DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9779.2010.01467.x
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14946

    Note: IO PE PR
    Contact details of provider:
    Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
    Phone: 617-868-3900
    Email:
    Web page: http://www.nber.org
    More information through EDIRC

    Related research

    Keywords:

    Find related papers by JEL classification:

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    References

    References listed on IDEAS
    Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
    as in new window
    1. Bergstrom, Theodore & Blume, Lawrence & Varian, Hal, 1986. "On the private provision of public goods," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 25-49, February.
    2. Justin Pappas Johnson, 2002. "Open Source Software: Private Provision of a Public Good," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 11(4), pages 637-662, December.
    3. Josh Lerner & Jean Tirole, 2002. "The Scope of Open Source Licensing," NBER Working Papers 9363, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Klein, Benjamin & Crawford, Robert G & Alchian, Armen A, 1978. "Vertical Integration, Appropriable Rents, and the Competitive Contracting Process," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 21(2), pages 297-326, October.
    5. Josh Lerner & Parag A. Pathak & Jean Tirole, 2006. "The Dynamics of Open-Source Contributors," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(2), pages 114-118, May.
    6. Hart, Oliver D. & Moore, John, 1990. "Property Rights and the Nature of the Firm," Scholarly Articles 3448675, Harvard University Department of Economics.
    7. Scott Stern, 2004. "Do Scientists Pay to Be Scientists?," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 50(6), pages 835-853, June.
    8. Eric von Hippel, 1998. "Economics of Product Development by Users: The Impact of "Sticky" Local Information," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 44(5), pages 629-644, May.
    9. Katz, Michael L & Shapiro, Carl, 1985. "Network Externalities, Competition, and Compatibility," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(3), pages 424-40, June.
    10. Guttman, Joel M, 1978. "Understanding Collective Action: Matching Behavior," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 68(2), pages 251-55, May.
    11. Katz, Michael L & Shapiro, Carl, 1986. "Technology Adoption in the Presence of Network Externalities," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(4), pages 822-41, August.
    12. Bliss, Christopher & Nalebuff, Barry, 1984. "Dragon-slaying and ballroom dancing: The private supply of a public good," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(1-2), pages 1-12, November.
    13. Johnson, Justin P., 2006. "Collaboration, peer review and open source software," Information Economics and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 18(4), pages 477-497, November.
    14. Eric von Hippel, 2007. "Horizontal innovation networks—by and for users," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 16(2), pages 293-315, April.
    15. Lerner, Josh & Tirole, Jean, 2002. "Some Simple Economics of Open," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 50(2), pages 197-234, June.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Lists

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14946. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ().

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.