Eine leuchtende grüne Ampel neben einer roten, die mit dem Wort 'GO' beschriftet ist.

5.1.2007 | Von:
Rishab Aiyer Ghosh

The Big World of the Many Small

In the late 1990s, you developed an economic model describing why it is actually beneficial for people to participate in open software projects...

I call it the "cooking pot model". There reason for that is that it's named after a hypothetical tribal cooking pot: If I have a fish and you have potatoes, we both realise that we get more value if we both put the fish and the potatoes into a common cooking pot and make a stew.

The reason this doesn't happen that much in a real tribal cooking pot is that we still have to decide after that how to divide the stew. Did you put in more? Did I put in more? If you always put in more but we always take out equally, for instance, that seems unfair.

All those problems go away when you look at information and knowledge goods, such as software on the Internet or even textbooks. Because the entire pot can be copied for everyone. We don't have to divide it: I get the whole pot, and you get the whole pot. And that's what allows everyone to feel that they get more out of it than they're giving. I only put in fish, but I got out fish and potatoes, and you only put in potatoes, but you got potatoes and fish out of it as well. And you got exactly as much in fish and potatoes as I did.

Why should I as a consumer choose Open Source products if I have proprietary products working quite fine for me right now?

As a pure consumer, you're only interested in the product; there is no such thing as choosing between open software or proprietary software. You're only choosing between one product and another. Just as you might choose an Apple Macintosh or a Windows PC, you might choose OpenOffice.

One of the main reasons for many end users of course is the price. While the word "free" there refers to freedom, the fact is that free software is also available without paying any money, more or less. So you can get the software at a much lower cost.



More important perhaps is the freedom from control. With proprietary software, you don't really possess the stuff you create with the software, because the company that makes that software keeps insisting that you're pirating their software, and then you have to pay even more money. Or they change the way your documents are stored. If you try to open a document that you stored in a word processor ten years ago using proprietary software, you're probably going to have a hard time opening it again. Whereas with free software, it is always maintained, because there is no one single company controlling it.

For consumers who are organisations, this matters a lot. For individual end users, it doesn't matter that much. But organisations, especially governments, schools and public organisations need to have the independence from particular companies. They'd want to be able to choose what software they have. When you use proprietary software, you don't have that choice anymore, because once you start to use it, it's very difficult to change, because you'll have to make sure that all your habits and practices work well with new software.

So it is a big change to move from proprietary software platforms to free software platforms as a big organisation, but the change has to happen only once. And once you've done that, you really have freedom from this control of licensing companies.

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