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File: [View Document]
Author: Yoo, Christopher S.
Citation: Open Source, Modular Platforms, and the Challenge of Fragmentation, 1 CRITERION J. ON INNOVATION 619 (2016).
Date Published: 2016
Date Posted: 11/07/2016
Subjects: Law and Economics
Law and Regulatory Systems
Law and the Global Community
Law, Technology and Communications
Keywords: Mass Media Law
Regulated Industries
Science and Technology
Communications Law
Computer Law
Electronic Commerce
European Union Law
Law and Technology
Trade Regulation
Open source and modular platforms represent two powerful conceptual paradigms that have fundamentally transformed the software industry. While generally regarded complementary, the freedom inherent in open source rests in uneasy tension with the strict structural requirements required by modularity theory. In particular, third party providers can produce noncompliant components, and excessive experimentation can fragment the platform in ways that reduce its economic benefits for end users and app providers and force app providers to spend resources customizing their code for each variant. The classic solutions to these problems are to rely on some form of testing to ensure that the components provided by third parties comply with a compatibility standard and to subject the overall system to some form of governance. The history of the three leading open source operating systems (Unix, Symbian, and Linux) confirms this insight. The question is thus not whether some constraints will apply, but rather how restrictive those constraints will be. Finally, the governance regimes range from very restrictive to relatively open and permissive. Competition policy authorities should take into account where certain practices fall along that spectrum when enforcing competition law. Exposing the more permissive practices to demanding scrutiny runs the risk of causing operating systems to turn to more restrictive approaches.