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The LaTeX project: A case study of open-source software


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  • Alexandre Gaudeul

    (University of East Anglia - Norwich)


This is a case study of TeX, a typesetting software that was developed by Donald E. Knuth in the late 70's. Released with an open source license, it has become a reference in scientific publishing. TeX is now used to typeset and publish much of the world's scientific literature in physics and mathematics. This case study is part of a wider effort by academics to understand the open-source phenomenon. That development model is similar to the organization of the production of knowledge in academia; there is no set organization with a hierarchy, but free collaboration that is coordinated spontaneously and winds up generating complex products that are the property of all who can understand its functioning. The case study was led by gathering qualitative data via interviews with TeX developers and quantitative data on the TeX community -- the program's code, the software that is part of the TeX distribution, the newsgroups dedicated to the software, and many other indicators of the evolution and activity in that open-source project. The case study is aimed at economists who want to develop models to understand and analyze the open-source phenomenon. It is also geared towards policy-makers who would like to encourage or regulate open- source, and towards open-source developers who wonder what are the efficient strategies to make an open-source project successful.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by EconWPA in its series Industrial Organization with number 0409009.

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Length: 65 pages
Date of creation: 17 Sep 2004
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpio:0409009

Note: Type of Document - pdf; pages: 65
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Related research

Keywords: TeX; LaTeX; case study; open source; software; innovation; organisational structure; economic history; knowledge production; knowledge diffusion.;

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  1. Varian, Hal R, 1993. "Economic Incentives in Software Design," Computational Economics, Society for Computational Economics, vol. 6(3-4), pages 201-17, November.
  2. Alexandre Gaudeul, 2004. "The LaTeX project: A case study of open-source software," Industrial Organization 0409009, EconWPA.
  3. Lerner, Josh & Tirole, Jean, 2003. "The Scope of Open Source Licensing," IDEI Working Papers 219, Institut d'Économie Industrielle (IDEI), Toulouse.
  4. Josh Lerner & Jean Triole, 2000. "The Simple Economics of Open Source," NBER Working Papers 7600, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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Cited by:
  1. Alex Gaudeul, 2004. "The LaTeX project: A case study of open source software," Industrial Organization 0409010, EconWPA, revised 20 Apr 2005.
  2. Gaudeul, Alexia, 2008. "Consumer welfare and market structure in a model of competition between open source and proprietary software," MPRA Paper 19555, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  3. Alexandre Gaudeul, 2004. "Open Source Software Development Patterns and License Terms," Industrial Organization 0409008, EconWPA.
  4. Alex Gaudeul, 2005. "Public provision of a private good: What is the point of the BSD license?," Industrial Organization 0511002, EconWPA.


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