Competition Policy in an Age of Open Source Platforms
Open source and modular platforms have transformed the software industry. The freedom to modify open source software rests in uneasy tension with the goals both of consumers and developers. Consumers demand products that are reliable and consistent in different environments and over time, and software / app developers are searching for economies of scale to compete with products developed for well-known proprietary platforms.
Development by third-party providers of non-compliant components, and experimentation with the operating system can work against the goals of consumers and developers by fragmenting the platform. This can reduce its economic benefits for end users and developers and force developers to spend resources customizing their code for each variant.
The classic response to these challenges are a combination of testing to ensure compatibility and the use of agreed systems of governance—acceptance of which is required before admittance to a development environment is allowed. The history of the three leading open source operating systems (Unix, Symbian, and Linux) reflects this approach.
The question therefore is not whether some constraints should apply, but rather:
1. How restrictive should these constraints be?
2. When should they attract the attention of competition regulators?
Professor Christopher Yoo
Professor Yoo: Christopher Yoo is one of America’s leading authorities on law and technology. His research focuses on how the principles of network engineering and the economics of imperfect competition can provide insights into the regulation of electronic communications. He has been a leading voice in the “network neutrality” debate that has dominated Internet policy over the past several years. He is also pursuing research on copyright theory as well as the history of presidential power. He is the author of The Dynamic Internet: How Technology, Users, and Businesses Are Transforming the Network (AEI Press, 2012), Networks in Telecommunications: Economics and Law (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2009) (with Daniel F. Spulber) and The Unitary Executive: Presidential Power from Washington to Bush (Yale Univ. Press, 2008) (with Steven G. Calabresi). Yoo testifies frequently before Congress, the Federal Communications Commission, and the Federal Trade Commission.