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Open Source Software: Private Provision of a Public Good

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  • Justin Pappas Johnson

Abstract

A simple model of open source software (as typified by the GNU‐Linux operating system) is presented. Individual user‐programmers decide whether to invest their own effort to develop a software enhancement that will become a public good if so developed. The effect of changing the population size of user‐programmers is considered; finite and asymptotic results are given. Welfare results are presented. It is shown that whether development will increase when applications have a modular structure depends on whether the developer base exceeds a critical size. Potential explanations of several stylized facts are given, including why certain useful programs don't get written.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:jemstr:v:11:y:2002:i:4:p:637-662
    DOI: 10.1111/j.1430-9134.2002.00637.x
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Chamberlin, John, 1974. "Provision of Collective Goods As a Function of Group Size," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 68(2), pages 707-716, June.
    2. Palfrey, Thomas R. & Rosenthal, Howard, 1984. "Participation and the provision of discrete public goods: a strategic analysis," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(2), pages 171-193, July.
    3. Josh Lerner & Jean Triole, 2000. "The Simple Economics of Open Source," NBER Working Papers 7600, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. 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.
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