Half a Century of Public Software Institutions: Open Source as a Solution to Hold-Up Problem
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.
|Date of creation:||May 2009|
|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|
|Note:||IO PE PR|
|Contact details of provider:|| Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.|
Web page: http://www.nber.org
More information through EDIRC
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.:
- Josh Lerner, 2005.
"The Scope of Open Source Licensing,"
Journal of Law, Economics and Organization,
Oxford University Press, vol. 21(1), pages 20-56, April.
- Josh Lerner & Jean Tirole, 2002. "The Scope of Open Source Licensing," NBER Working Papers 9363, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Josh Lerner & Jean Tirole, 2003. "The Scope of Open Source Licensing," Levine's Working Paper Archive 506439000000000140, David K. Levine.
- Lerner, Josh & Tirole, Jean, 2003. "The Scope of Open Source Licensing," IDEI Working Papers 219, Institut d'Économie Industrielle (IDEI), Toulouse.
- Guttman, Joel M, 1978. "Understanding Collective Action: Matching Behavior," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 68(2), pages 251-255, May.
- Hart, Oliver & Moore, John, 1990. "Property Rights and the Nature of the Firm," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(6), pages 1119-1158, December.
- Oliver Hart & John Moore, 1988. "Property Rights and the Nature of the Firm," Working papers 495, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
- Hart, Oliver D. & Moore, John, 1990. "Property Rights and the Nature of the Firm," Scholarly Articles 3448675, Harvard University Department of Economics.
- Lerner, Josh & Tirole, Jean, 2002. "Some Simple Economics of Open," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 50(2), pages 197-234, June.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 822-841, August.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Scott Stern, 2004. "Do Scientists Pay to Be Scientists?," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 50(6), pages 835-853, June.
- Katz, Michael L & Shapiro, Carl, 1985. "Network Externalities, Competition, and Compatibility," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(3), pages 424-440, June.
- Johnson, Justin P., 2006. "Collaboration, peer review and open source software," Information Economics and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 18(4), pages 477-497, November. Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)
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 references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.