Rules of Engagement: Why and How Companies Participate in OSS
Company engagement in open source (OSS) is now the new norm. From large technology companies to startups, companies are participating in the OSS ecosystem by open-sourcing their technology, sponsoring projects through funding or paid developer time. However, our understanding of the OSS ecosystem is rooted in the “old world” model where individual contributors sustain OSS projects. In this work, we create a more comprehensive understanding of the hybrid OSS landscape by investigating what motivates companies to contribute and how they contribute to OSS. We conducted interviews with 20 participants who have different roles (e.g., CEO, OSPO Lead, Ecosystem Strategist) at 17 different companies of different sizes from large companies (e.g., Microsoft, RedHat, Google, Spotify) to startups. Data from semi-structured interviews reveal that company motivations can be categorized into four levels (Founders’ Vision, Reputation, Business Advantage, and Reciprocity) and companies participate through different mechanisms (e.g., Developers’ Time, Mentoring Time, Advocacy & Promotion Time), each of which tie to the different types of motivations. We hope our findings nudge more companies to participate in the OSS ecosystem, helping make it robust, diverse, and sustainable.