Technology Innovation Management Review (January 2012)
How open is open enough?
Joel West, Professor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship
Open source software is now “business as usual” in the mobile industry. While much attention is given to the importance of open source licenses, we argue in this article that the governance model can be as necessary to a project’s success and that projects vary widely in the governance models – whether open or closed – that they employ. Open source governance models describe the control points that are used to influence open source projects with regard to access to the source code, how the source code is developed, how derivatives are created, and the community structure of the project. Governance determines who has control over the project beyond what is deemed legally necessary via the open source licenses for that project. The purpose of our research is to define and measure the governance of open source projects, in other words, the extent to which decision-making in an open source project is “open” or “closed”. We analyzed eight open source projects using 13 specific governance criteria across four areas of governance: access, development, derivatives and
Our findings suggest that the most open platforms will be most successful in the long term, however we acknowledge exceptions to this rule. We also identify best practices that are common across these open source projects with regard to source code access, development of source code, management of derivatives, and community structure. These best practices increase the likelihood of developer use of and involvement in open source projects.