It’s easy to construct arguments that open source software can’t succeed. Why would people work for free to make something that they could get paid for? Who will do the dirty work? Who will do tech support? How can customers trust a “vendor” that is so diffuse and loosely organized?
And yet, open source has had some important successes. Apache dominates the market for web server software. Linux and its kin are serious players in the server operating system market. Linux is even a factor in the desktop OS market. How can this be reconciled with what we know about economics and sociology?
Many articles and books have been written about this puzzle. To my mind, Steven Weber’s book “The Success of Open Source” is the best. Weber explores the open source puzzle systematically, breaking it down into interesting subquestions and exploring answers. One of the book’s virtues is that it doesn’t claim to have complete answers; but it does present and dissect partial answers and hints. This is a book that could merit a full book club discussion, if people are interested.