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Methods and Applications of Informatics and Information Technology

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Volume 55, Issue 5


Trends in Free, Libre, Open Source Software Communities: From Volunteers to Companies

Aktuelle Trends in Free-, Libre-, und Open-Source-Software-Gemeinschaften: Von Freiwilligen zu Unternehmen

Jesus M. Gonzalez-Barahona / Gregorio Robles
Published Online: 2013-10-01 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/itit.2013.1012


The first free/libre/open source software (FLOSS) development communities were composed almost exclusively of volunteers. They were individuals who, despite their affiliation, contributed to the project on their own. They decided which project to join, and their contributions were personal in nature, even when in some cases they were employees of companies with some interests in the project. GNU, the first of such communities, and some others that emerged during the late 1980s and 1990s, followed this pattern. During the 1990s corporate interests started to have a role in some FLOSS communities. Companies hired people from those communities to gain influence, or tasked their employees to contribute to them, again with the idea of influencing their decisions. During the 2000s, corporate communities, in which companies are first-class citizens, have emerged, changing the rules and redefining the role of volunteers and non-affiliated individuals. However, the role of developers, with independence of the company for which they work, is still important even in these communities. This paper addresses this transition from volunteer-based to company-based development communities, and explores the structure and behavior of the latter.


Die ersten „Free-, Libre-, und Open-Source-Software“-Gemeinschaften (FLOSS) bestanden fast durchgängig aus Freiwilligen. Diese Personen trugen zu den Projekten unabhängig von ihrem Arbeitgeber bei. Auch wenn gelegentlich Unternehmen Interesse an den Open-Source-Aktivitäten ihrer Mitarbeiter hatten, war doch deren aktive Beteiligung persönlich motiviert. Das GNU-Projekt, die erste solche Open-Source-Gemeinschaft, wie auch die nächste Generation an Open-Source-Projekten der 1980er und 1990er Jahre, folgte diesem Muster. Während der folgenden 1990er Jahre entwickelten Unternehmen ein Interesse an Open-Source-Gemeinschaften. Unternehmen stellten Entwickler aus den Projekten ein, um Einfluss zu gewinnen, oder sie beauftragten ihre Angestellten aktiv mitzuarbeiten, ebenfalls mit dem Ziel, Einfluss zu gewinnen. In den 2000er Jahren dann entstanden Open-Source-Gemeinschaften, in denen die Unternehmen selbst als aktive Mitspieler agierten. Diese Entwicklung definierte die Projektregeln und die Rollen von Frewilligen neu. Trotz dieser Entwicklung spielen unabhängige Entwickler weiterhin eine wichtige Rolle. Dieser Artikel untersucht den Übergang von der freiwilligen-getriebenen Gemeinschaft hin zur unternehmens-getriebenen Gemeinschaft und exploriert Struktur und Verhalten dieser neuen Form von Open-Source-Gemeinschaft.

Keywords: ACM CSS → Software and its engineering → Software creation and management → Collaboration in software development → Open source mode; volunteer open source; commercial open source; open source community; open source history

Schlagwörter: Freiwilligen-Open-Source; kommerzieller Open Source; Open-Source-Gemeinschaften; Open-Source-Geschichte

About the article

Jesus M. Gonzalez-Barahona

Dr. Jesus M. Gonzalez-Barahona teaches and researches at Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, and collaborates with Bitergia, a software development analytics company. He is interested in understanding free/open source software development, in finding ways to improve its efficiency, and in sharing this knowledge.

Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Spain

Gregorio Robles

Dr. Gregorio Robles is associate professor at the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos. His research interests involve software engineering in free/libre open source software, mining software repositories and technology enhanced learning.

Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Spain

Received: 2013-04-01

Published Online: 2013-10-01

Published in Print: 2013-09-01

Citation Information: it – Information Technology it – Information Technology, Volume 55, Issue 5, Pages 173–180, ISSN (Online) 2196-7032, ISSN (Print) 1611-2776, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/itit.2013.1012.

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