FREEconomics: The economics of free stuff

GNUnify 09 LogoLast week, SICSR (Symbiosis Institute of Computer Studies and Research) hosted GNUnify, a conference on open source technologies, which attracted hundreds of students and other open source enthusiasts. Shirish has written a couple of posts on his blog about the talks he attended – read those to get a flavor of GNUnify (day 1, day 2). Usually, the presentations and discussions revolve mostly around the technology, but I decided to talk about not the technology, but about the economics of open source in particular, and free stuff in general.

If so much stuff is being given away for free, how is it sustainable? Programmers need to eat, even if they are immersed in the ideology of the free software movement. Businesses who give away free services exist for making money. So it is instructive to follow the money trail and look at who is paying for the free stuff, who is making money and how. As more of the business world is pushed towards free (whether they want to or not), it is important to understand the various fine points of the economics and sustainability of this situation.

I’ve embedded my presentation below. If you are not able to see it, you can download the PDF.

If you can’t see the slideshow above, click here to view it online, or download the PDF

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