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The institutions of open source software: Examining the Debian community


  • Mateos-Garcia, Juan
  • Steinmueller, W. Edward


Free and open source software activities involve and, perhaps, evolve institutions (rules, norms and standards) that influence the formation, growth, and demise of communities. Community institutions are attractors for some individuals while discouraging other individuals from entering or continuing to participate. Their suitability may change as a community grows. This paper examines the institutions of the Debian community where issues of community identity, distribution of authority, and decentralisation have facilitated growth and development. These same institutions have also resulted in conflicts regarding community purposes and the quality and delivery of the community's output. We examine the institutional redesign undertaken to address these problems and derive implications for F/LOS communities and companies.

Suggested Citation

  • Mateos-Garcia, Juan & Steinmueller, W. Edward, 2008. "The institutions of open source software: Examining the Debian community," Information Economics and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 20(4), pages 333-344, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:iepoli:v:20:y:2008:i:4:p:333-344

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Josh Lerner & Jean Triole, 2000. "The Simple Economics of Open Source," NBER Working Papers 7600, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Haas, Peter M., 1992. "Introduction: epistemic communities and international policy coordination," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 46(01), pages 1-35, December.
    3. Rishab Aiyer Ghosh, 1998. "Cooking pot Markets: an Economic Model for the Trade in Free Goods and Services on the Internet," Brazilian Electronic Journal of Economics, Department of Economics, Universidade Federal de Pernambuco, vol. 1(1), July.
    4. von Krogh, Georg & Spaeth, Sebastian & Lakhani, Karim R., 2003. "Community, joining, and specialization in open source software innovation: a case study," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 32(7), pages 1217-1241, July.
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    Cited by:

    1. Engelhardt, Sebastian v. & Freytag, Andreas, 2013. "Institutions, culture, and open source," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 95(C), pages 90-110.
    2. Michiel Bijlsma & Paul de Bijl & Viktoria Kocsis, 2009. "Concurrentie, innovatie en intellectuele eigendomsrechten in software markten," CPB Document 181, CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis.
    3. F. Rullani & L. Zirulia, 2011. "A supply side story for a threshold model: Endogenous growth of the free and open source community," Working Papers wp781, Dipartimento Scienze Economiche, Universita' di Bologna.
    4. Miko³aj Rogiñski, 2011. "Institutionalization of Wikipedia - almost like hippies (Instytucjonalizacja Wikipedii - prawie jak hipisi)," Problemy Zarzadzania, University of Warsaw, Faculty of Management, vol. 9(32), pages 193-204.
    5. Rullani, Francesco & Haefliger, Stefan, 2013. "The periphery on stage: The intra-organizational dynamics in online communities of creation," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 42(4), pages 941-953.
    6. Dejean, Sylvain & Jullien, Nicolas, 2015. "Big from the beginning: Assessing online contributors’ behavior by their first contribution," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 44(6), pages 1226-1239.


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