Open Source Software: Free Provision of a Complex Public Good

TitleOpen Source Software: Free Provision of a Complex Public Good
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2008
AuthorsBessen, J
Date PublishedApril

Open source software, developed by volunteers, appears counter to conventional wisdom about private provision of public goods. Standard arguments suggest that proprietary provision should be more efficient. But complex open source products challenge commercially-developed software in quality and market share. I argue that the complexity of software changes the results. With complex software, standard products cannot address all consumer needs and proprietary custom solutions are not always offered. Open source allows consumers to create their own customizations. When such user-customizations are then shared, open source products grow in quality and features. Open source extends the market for complex products.

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