Do Open Source Developers Respond to Competition?: The (La)Tex Case Study
26 Pages Posted: 16 Jun 2006 Last revised: 10 Mar 2017
Date Written: March 2007
This paper traces the history of the development and use of the Open Source TeX typesetting program. This software was developed over three decades and came into competition with a variety of open-source and proprietary alternatives. TeX was an early and very successful open-source project that imposed its standards in a particularly competitive environment and inspired many advances in the typesetting industry. While developers working under proprietary and open-source licenses responded to different sets of motivations, this did not mean they could abstract from each other's development decisions. The development of each type of software evolved in a symbiotic way. The strengths and weaknesses of both development methods were starkly revealed in the process. A pattern of semi-altruistic open-source development emerged, whereby developers considered non-developers' needs in order to make TeX more attractive to a broader audience and more competitive vs. proprietary alternatives. Self-use motivations for development were complemented by direct and indirect network effect considerations. This paper contributes to a better understanding of the long-term welfare effect of the emergence and growing importance of open-source development methods.
Keywords: Open Source Software, Network Effects, Product Differentiation, Information Goods, Intellectual Property, Competition, Production Systems, Non-Profit, Volunteer Organizations
JEL Classification: D23, H41, L13, L22, L31, L86, O34, O38
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation