A smartphone app that provides users with information on surf conditions at their location. (“Surf conditions” refers to information on wind, waves, and ocean tides that is useful for surfers).

For this I assume the consumption here is strictly the info on the app also assuming the app is free anybody can use it (like google maps). This is a pure public good then. First. they are non-rival in consumption that is my consumption of the app does not in any way affect other people to use the app as well. Even if a million people is using the app, no one will be affected since the consumption here is only the info. It can be opened simultaneously by many user, and adding more users does not affect any of the users on using the app. Second, they are non-excludable, even if I want to deny someone else to use the app there is no way I can do so. Anybody can download the app and it will be really difficult to ban people from downloading the app

That is my answer.

My professor said the app is excludable. Am I correct to say that the app is non-exlucludeable? My logic behind it was a free app is always non-excludeable since there is always a workaround to accessing/downloading the app. For example a certain app that is not available for a specific region, you can always use a VPN to access/download it. If it is a premium service on the other hand, I completely agree that the it is excludable, however the professor has confirmed that the reasoning behind it being excludable doesn't have anything to do with it being a premium service.

Here is the professor's answer It is, however, excludable because the app provider can limit you from downloading it to your phone. 1)This example is similar to the Netflix option, where Netflix can deny users access to the streaming service. 2)The definition for excludability it “it is possible to deny someone the opportunity to consume it.” It is possible to deny someone the opportunity to consume the app (no matter what they do, like owning the right smartphone) because it is possible for the app designer to restrict your ability to download the app. As for paying for it, that is a resultof the app being excludable. If it were a public good, the app design could not get people to pay for it.


1 Answer 1


Am I correct to say that the app is non-excludable?

I am sorry to say but this is wrong. Just assume google removes the application from the store. All android users would be excluded. There are many ways to exclude people from consuming an application. Access can be bound to a minimum age requirement, to a certain country (geo-blocking) or simply to a payment.

The possibility is important not the concrete situation.

Just because it is free now does not imply it is generally non-excludable.

Let’s ask the same question for a classic public good: Could you easily exclude someone from consuming air? Even if you wanted to this would be (nearly) impossible.

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    $\begingroup$ Probably the most distinct exclusion is made when not in ownership of a smartphone. $\endgroup$ Dec 9, 2020 at 22:13
  • $\begingroup$ I think it is excludable because the question is asking about smartphone application and there is always a workaround for that. The one where they remove the application from the store, someone could just download the app on a website (For Android's case you don't have to download the app from the playstore, If there is an app for that it could be downloaded. If on the other hand the app is exclusive to iOS devices that means they are not selling the goods to the Android market in the first place and this is not exludeable, this is more towards they are not catering to the Android market). $\endgroup$ Dec 10, 2020 at 5:42
  • $\begingroup$ For geo-blocking, anyone can use a VPN and download the app where the region is allowed. For age requirement, anybody can just lie about their age. For example like porn sites, they are not able to exclude minors from accessing the site and I know this for a fact. While I agree if the question is asking about air, it would be non-excludeable. Even with national defense or fireworks technically it is excludable. A country can revoke citizenship for a particular person then they are excluded. Fireworks, lets say I am rich and I own the firework, I can just build a tarp to block someone $\endgroup$ Dec 10, 2020 at 5:48

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