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Abstract

With the emergence of free and open source software (F/OSS) projects (e.g. Linux) as serious contenders to well-established proprietary software, advocates of F/OSS are quick to generalize the superiority of this approach to software development. On the other hand, some well-established software development firms view F/OSS as a threat and vociferously refute the claims of F/OSS advocates. This article represents a tutorial on F/OSS that tries objectively to identify and present open source software's concepts, benefits, and challenges. From our point of view, F/OSS is more than just software. We conceptualize it as an IPO system that consists of the license as the boundary of the system, the community that provides the input, the development process, and the software as the output. After describing the evolution and definition of F/OSS, we identify three approaches to benefiting from F/OSS that center on (1) the software, (2) the community, and (3) the license respectively. Each approach is fit for a specific situation and provides a unique set of benefits and challenges. We further illustrate our points by refuting common misconceptions associated with F/OSS based upon our conceptual framework.

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