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Who is not developing open source software? non-users, users, and developers

Linus Dahlander and Maureen Mckelvey

Economics of Innovation and New Technology, 2005, vol. 14, issue 7, 617-635

Abstract: The development of knowledge requires investment, which may be made in terms of financial resources or time. Open source software (OSS) has challenged much of the traditional reasoning by suggesting that individuals behave altruistically and contribute to a public good, despite the opportunity to free-ride. The lion's share of the existing literature on OSS examines communities, that is, those individuals whom are already part of the OSS community. In contrast, this paper starts from users with the requisite skill to use and develop OSS. This group of skilled individuals could potentially invest into the development of OSS knowledge, but they may or may not do so in actuality. This paper, therefore, explores three issues, which have not been extensively explored in the literature, namely, (1) how frequently a group of skilled people use OSS, (2) reasons for differences among users and non-users in terms of use and attitudes, and (3) how frequently, and why, some users contribute to OSS projects (and thereby become developers). In doing so, we consider the opportunity costs of use and development of OSS, which has been largely neglected in the literature. We find that the individuals have a rather pragmatic attitude to firms and that many are active in both firms and OSS community, which raises many questions for future research about the role and influence of firms on the development and diffusion of OSS.

Keywords: Opportunity cost; Motivation; Diffusion; Knowledge development; Public goods; Open source software (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2005
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DOI: 10.1080/1043859052000344705

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