Capturing Value From Free Digital Goods

Companies can improve productivity by tapping into the market of free digital goods, such as open source software, and by paying their own employees to contribute.

Scientists refer to portions of the universe that they know exist but can’t easily measure as “dark matter.” As direct measurement is difficult, they study the indirect gravitational effects or galaxy rotation speeds to understand the phenomenon. Similarly, in the digital economy a broad range of “dark” elements are free and essentially limitless, and traditional tools can’t measure them.

One of the best-known examples of this phenomenon is Wikipedia. People use Wikipedia at no charge, and the content is created primarily ...

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