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Open vs closed source software: The quest for balance

Nov 02, 2010, 17:03 (3 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Sebastian V. Engelhardt)

"Governments are increasingly interested in promoting open source software. Yet policymakers have seldom laid out any clear theoretical or empirical justification for these policies. This column explores recent studies suggesting that open source and proprietary software strengthen each other and should co-exist – too much open source could actually be a bad thing.

"Open source software (OSS) like the operating system Linux is marked by free access to shared source code that is developed in a public, collaborative manner. While most of this activity was originally non-commercial, over the past decade companies have been asking themselves whether similar OSS methods can be made to earn a profit. This has led to an explosion of OSS-based business models and investments throughout the information and communications technologies sector (Ghosh et al. 2002, Dahlander and Magnusson 2005, Lerner et al. 2006).

"Governments are similarly intrigued and have begun experimenting with various pro-OSS measures including procurement preferences, tax breaks, and grants (Lerner and Tirole 2005, CSIS 2008). At first, the implicit policy assumption seemed to be that OSS was inherently more efficient than proprietary, or "closed source", software (CSS)1."

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