Open Source Projects as Horizontal Innovation Networks - By and For Users

27 Pages Posted: 25 Sep 2002  

Eric A. von Hippel

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management

Date Written: June 2002

Abstract

Innovation development, production, distribution and consumption networks can be built up horizontally - with actors consisting only of innovation users (more precisely, "user/self-manufacturers"). "Free" and "open source" software projects are examples of such networks, and examples can be found in the case of physical products as well. User innovation networks can function entirely independently of manufacturers when (1) at least some users have sufficient incentive to innovate, (2) at least some users have an incentive to voluntarily reveal their innovations, and (3) diffusion of innovations by users is low cost and can compete with commercial production and distribution. When only the first two conditions hold, a pattern of user innovation and trial and improvement will occur within user networks, followed by commercial manufacturer and distribution of innovations that prove to be of general interest. In this paper we explore the empirical evidence related to each of these matters and conclude that conditions favorable to user innovation networks are often present in the economy.

Keywords: Innovation Networks, User Innovation, Open Source Software

Suggested Citation

von Hippel, Eric A., Open Source Projects as Horizontal Innovation Networks - By and For Users (June 2002). MIT Sloan Working Paper No. 4366-02. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=328900 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.328900

Eric Von Hippel (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management ( email )

E62-455
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States
617-253-7155 (Phone)
617-253-2660 (Fax)

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