AWS, MongoDB, and the Economic Realities of Open Source – Stratechery by Ben Thompson

It’s the same situation with software: bits on a disk are fundamentally free — just ask Richard Stallman. In his seminal essay Why Software Should Be Free Stallman wrote:

A copy of a program has nearly zero marginal cost (and you can pay this cost by doing the work yourself), so in a free market, it would have nearly zero price. A license fee is a significant disincentive to use the program. If a widely useful program is proprietary, far fewer people will use it.It is easy to show that the total contribution of a program to society is reduced by assigning an owner to it. Each potential user of the program, faced with the need to pay to use it, may choose to pay, or may forego use of the program. When a user chooses to pay, this is a zero-sum transfer of wealth between two parties. But each time someone chooses to forego use of the program, this harms that person without benefiting anyone. The sum of negative numbers and zeros must be negative.But this does not reduce the amount of work it takes to develop the program. As a result, the efficiency of the whole process, in delivered user satisfaction per hour of work, is reduced.

Source: AWS, MongoDB, and the Economic Realities of Open Source – Stratechery by Ben Thompson

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