Strategic Forking in the Development of Free/Open-Source Software
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Publish date: 2008-10-31
Gospodarka Narodowa 2008;227(10):23–43
The paper discusses a trend in the development of computer software known as “strategic forking.” This trend is an intrinsic feature of today’s “open-source community,” according to Konat. To begin with, the article defines the term “source code” in reference to software” and it also explains the terms “open source” and “free software.” Moreover, it introduces the definition of Free/Open-Source Software (FOSS). In the following part of the article, Konat offers a microeconomic analysis of “strategic forking” to determine the motives guiding software engineers taking part in FOSS projects. The problem is discussed from the perspective of the theory of public goods, the demand-side approach to innovation, and other theories concerned with issues such as “hackers’ ethic” and “ego boosting.” Konat pays special attention to describing the “strategic forking” phenomenon with the use of classical microeconomic and enterprise theory tools developed by researchers Jean Tirole and Josh Lerner. The author follows up with a comprehensive analysis of strategic forking as a key to explaining a fundamental discrepancy in the assessment of the motives that guide programmers taking part in the development of open-source software. The analysis focuses on the definition of strategic forking, the conditions determining this trend and its direct causes. Konat also looks at the implications of strategic forking and the factors due to which this approach has not become more widespread around the world. The article closes with a review of issues that require further analysis, according to Konat. These include the issue of software distribution.