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Code Reuse in Open Source Software


  • Stefan Haefliger

    () (Department of Management, Technology, and Economics, ETH Zurich, CH-8032 Zurich, Switzerland)

  • Georg von Krogh

    () (Department of Management, Technology, and Economics, ETH Zurich, CH-8032 Zurich, Switzerland)

  • Sebastian Spaeth

    () (Department of Management, Technology, and Economics, ETH Zurich, CH-8032 Zurich, Switzerland)


Code reuse is a form of knowledge reuse in software development that is fundamental to innovation in many fields. However, to date there has been no systematic investigation of code reuse in open source software projects. This study uses quantitative and qualitative data gathered from a sample of six open source software projects to explore two sets of research questions derived from the literature on software reuse in firms and open source software development. We find that code reuse is extensive across the sample and that open source software developers, much like developers in firms, apply tools that lower their search costs for knowledge and code, assess the quality of software components, and have incentives to reuse code. Open source software developers reuse code because they want to integrate functionality quickly, because they want to write preferred code, because they operate under limited resources in terms of time and skills, and because they can mitigate development costs through code reuse.

Suggested Citation

  • Stefan Haefliger & Georg von Krogh & Sebastian Spaeth, 2008. "Code Reuse in Open Source Software," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 54(1), pages 180-193, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:54:y:2008:i:1:p:180-193

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Lerner, Josh & Tirole, Jean, 2002. "Some Simple Economics of Open," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 50(2), pages 197-234, June.
    2. Hertel, Guido & Niedner, Sven & Herrmann, Stefanie, 2003. "Motivation of software developers in Open Source projects: an Internet-based survey of contributors to the Linux kernel," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 32(7), pages 1159-1177, July.
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    8. Sonali K. Shah, 2006. "Motivation, Governance, and the Viability of Hybrid Forms in Open Source Software Development," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 52(7), pages 1000-1014, July.
    9. Ulrich, Karl, 1995. "The role of product architecture in the manufacturing firm," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 24(3), pages 419-440, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Teiu, Codrin-Marius, 2011. "An overview over the worldwide development of e-government," MPRA Paper 36470, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 15 Jan 2012.
    2. Francesco Rullani & Francesco Zirpoli, 2013. "Coordination of joint search in distributed innovation processes: Lessons from the effects of initial code release in Open Source Software development," Working Papers 20, Department of Management, Università Ca' Foscari Venezia.
    3. Franzoni, Chiara & Sauermann, Henry, 2014. "Crowd science: The organization of scientific research in open collaborative projects," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 43(1), pages 1-20.
    4. Child, John & Hsieh, Linda H.Y., 2014. "Decision mode, information and network attachment in the internationalization of SMEs: A configurational and contingency analysis," Journal of World Business, Elsevier, vol. 49(4), pages 598-610.
    5. Sabine Brunswicker & Sorin Adam Matei & Michael Zentner & Lynn Zentner & Gerhard Klimeck, 2017. "Creating impact in the digital space: digital practice dependency in communities of digital scientific innovations," Scientometrics, Springer;Akadémiai Kiadó, vol. 110(1), pages 417-442, January.
    6. repec:bla:stratm:v:37:y:2016:i:13:p:2589-2610 is not listed on IDEAS


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