e-Informatica Software Engineering Journal Do Software Firms Collaborate or Compete? A Model of Coopetition in Community-initiated OSS Projects

Do Software Firms Collaborate or Compete? A Model of Coopetition in Community-initiated OSS Projects

[1]Anh Nguyen-Duc, Daniela S. Cruzes, Snarby Terje and Pekka Abrahamsson, "Do Software Firms Collaborate or Compete? A Model of Coopetition in Community-initiated OSS Projects", In e-Informatica Software Engineering Journal, vol. 13, no. 1, pp. 37–62, 2019. DOI: 10.5277/e-Inf190102.

Get article (PDF)View article entry (BibTeX)


Anh Nguyen-Duc, Daniela S. Cruzes, Snarby Terje, Pekka Abrahamsson


Background: An increasing number of commercial firms are participating in Open Source Software (OSS) projects to reduce their development cost and increase technical innovativeness. When collaborating with other firms whose sought values are conflicts of interests, firms may behave uncooperatively leading to harmful impacts on the common goal.
Aim: This study explores how software firms both collaborate and compete in OSS projects.
Method: We adopted a mixed research method on three OSS projects.
Result: We found that commercial firms participating in community-initiated OSS projects collaborate in various ways across the organizational boundaries. While most of firms contribute little, a small number of firms that are very active and account for large proportions of contributions. We proposed a conceptual model to explain for coopetition among software firms in OSS projects. The model shows two aspects of coopetition can be managed at the same time based on firm gatekeepers.
Conclusion: Firms need to operationalize their coopetition strategies to maximize value gained from participating in OSS projects.


COSS, coopetition, collaboration, competition, open source software, case study


[1]   D.G. Messerschmitt and C. Szyperski, Software Ecosystem: Understanding an Indispensable Technology and Industry. Cambridge, MA, USA: MIT Press, 2003.

[2]   S. Jansen, A. Finkelstein, and S. Brinkkemper, “A sense of community: A research agenda for software ecosystems,” in 31st International Conference on Software Engineering – Companion Volume, 2009, pp. 187–190.

[3]   G. Valença, C. Alves, V. Heimann, S. Jansen, and S. Brinkkemper, “Competition and collaboration in requirements engineering: A case study of an emerging software ecosystem,” in 22nd International Requirements Engineering Conference (RE), 2014, pp. 384–393.

[4]   J.F. Lorraine Morgann and P. Finnegan, “Exploring inner source as a form of intra-organisational open innovation,” in 19th European Conference on Information Systems, 2011.

[5]   K. Manikas, “Revisiting software ecosystems research: A longitudinal literature study,” Journal of Systems and Software, Vol. 117, 2016, pp. 84–103.

[6]   H.H. Olsson and J. Bosch, “Ecosystem-driven software development: A case study on the emerging challenges in inter-organizational R&D,” in Software Business. Towards Continuous Value Delivery, C. Lassenius and K. Smolander, Eds. Springer International Publishing, 2014, pp. 16–26.

[7]   S. O’Mahony and B.A. Bechky, “Boundary organizations: Enabling collaboration among unexpected allies,” Administrative Science Quarterly, Vol. 53, No. 3, 2008, pp. 422–459.

[8]   B. Andrea and R. Cristina, “Comparing motivations of individual programmers and firms to take part in the open source movement: From community to business,” Knowledge, Technology & Policy, Vol. 18, No. 4, Dec. 2006, pp. 40–64.

[9]   A.H. Ghapanchi, C. Wohlin, and A. Aurum, “Resources contributing to gaining competitive advantage for open source software projects: An application of resource-based theory,” International Journal of Project Management, Vol. 32, No. 1, 2014, pp. 139–152.

[10]   A.H. Ghapanchi, “Rallying competencies in virtual communities: A study of core processes and user interest in open source software projects,” Information and Organization, Vol. 23, No. 2, 2013, pp. 129–148.

[11]   R. Riehle, “The single-vendor commercial open course business model,” Information Systems and e-Business Management, Vol. 10, No. 1, Mar 2012, pp. 5–17.

[12]   A.H. Ghapanchi, C. Wohlin, and A. Aurum, “Resources contributing to gaining competitive advantage for open source software projects: An application of resource-based theory,” International Journal of Project Management, Vol. 32, No. 1, 2014, pp. 139–152. [Online]. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0263786313000380

[13]   S. Ghobadi and J. D’Ambra, “Coopetitive relationships in cross-functional software development teams: How to model and measure?” Journal of Systems and Software, Vol. 85, No. 5, May 2012, pp. 1096–1104.

[14]   K. Manikas and K.M. Hansen, “Software ecosystems? A systematic literature review,” Journal of Systems and Software, Vol. 86, No. 5, 2013, pp. 1294–1306. [Online]. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S016412121200338X

[15]   L. Johan, R. Patrick, R. Björn, and P. Mäder, “How firms adapt and interact in open source ecosystems: Analyzing stakeholder influence and collaboration patterns,” in Requirements Engineering: Foundation for Software Quality. Cham: Springer International Publishing, 2016, pp. 63–81.

[16]   J. Teixeira, “Understanding collaboration in the open-source arena: The cases of WebKit and OpenStack,” in Proceedings of the 18th International Conference on Evaluation and Assessment in Software Engineering, 2014, pp. 52:1–52:5.

[17]   J. Teixeira, S. Mian, and U. Hytti, “Cooperation among competitors in the open-source arena: The case of OpenStack,” in International Conference on Information Systems (ICIS), 2016.

[18]   A.M. Brandenburger and B.J. Nalebuff., Co-opetition. New York, USA: Doubleday, 1996.

[19]   M. Bengtsson and S. Kock, “‘Coopetition’ in business networks? To cooperate and compete simultaneously,” Industrial Marketing Management, Vol. 29, No. 5, 2000, pp. 411–426.

[20]   M. Zineldin, “Co-opetition: The organisation of the future,” Marketing Intelligence & Planning, Vol. 22, No. 7, 2004, pp. 780–790.

[21]   G.B. Dagnino and G. Padula, “Coopetition strategy, a new kind of inter firm dynamics for value creation,” in The 2nd conference on European Academy of Management, 2002.

[22]   C.P. Lin, Y.J. Wang, Y.H. Tsai, and Y.F. Hsu, “Perceived job effectiveness in coopetition: A survey of virtual teams within business organizations,” Computers in Human Behavior, Vol. 26, No. 6, 2010, pp. 1598–1606. [Online]. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0747563210001792

[23]   W. Scacchi, “Free/Open Source software development: Recent research results and emerging opportunities,” in The 6th Joint Meeting on European Software Engineering Conference and the ACM SIGSOFT Symposium on the Foundations of Software Engineering: Companion Papers, ser. ESEC-FSE companion ’07. New York, NY, USA: ACM, 2007, pp. 459–468.

[24]   J.Y. Moon and L. Sproull, “Essence of distributed work: The case of the Linux kernel,” First Monday, No. 11, 2000. [Online]. http://www.firstmonday.dk/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/801/710

[25]   A. Mockus, R.T. Fielding, and J.D. Herbsleb, “Two case studies of Open Source Software development: Apache and Mozilla,” ACM Transactions on Software Engineering and Methodology, Vol. 11, No. 3, Jul. 2002, pp. 309–346.

[26]   G.K. Lee and R.E. Cole, “From a firm-based to a community-based model of knowledge creation: The case of the Linux kernel development,” Organization Science, Vol. 14, No. 6, Nov. 2003, pp. 633–649.

[27]   J. Xu, Y. Gao, S. Christley, and G. Madey, “A topological analysis of the Open Souce Software development community,” in Proceedings of the 38th Annual Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, Jan. 2005, p. 198a.

[28]   K. Crowston and J. Howison, “The social structure of Free and Open Source Software development,” First Monday, Vol. 10, 2005.

[29]   L. Dabbish, C. Stuart, J. Tsay, and J. Herbsleb, “Social coding in GitHub: Transparency and collaboration in an open software repository,” in Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work, ser. CSCW ’12. New York, NY, USA: ACM, 2012, pp. 1277–1286.

[30]   C. Gutwin, R. Penner, and K. Schneider, “Group awareness in distributed software development,” in Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work, ser. CSCW ’04. New York, NY, USA: ACM, 2004, pp. 72–81.

[31]   W. Scacchi, Free/Open Source Software Development: Recent Research Results and Methods. Elsevier, 2007, Vol. 69, pp. 243–295. [Online]. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0065245806690050

[32]   R. Abreu and R. Premraj, “How developer communication frequency relates to bug introducing changes,” in Proceedings of the Joint International and Annual ERCIM Workshops on Principles of Software Evolution (IWPSE) and Software Evolution (Evol) Workshops, ser. IWPSE-Evol ’09. New York, NY, USA: ACM, 2009, pp. 153–158.

[33]   T. Zimmermann, R. Premraj, N. Bettenburg, S. Just, A. Schroter, and C. Weiss, “What makes a good bug report?” IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering, Vol. 36, No. 5, Sep. 2010, pp. 618–643.

[34]   C. Bird, N. Nagappan, H. Gall, B. Murphy, and P. Devanbu, “Putting it all together: Using socio-technical networks to predict failures,” in 20th International Symposium on Software Reliability Engineering, Nov. 2009, pp. 109–119.

[35]   T. Wolf, A. Schroter, D. Damian, and T. Nguyen, “Predicting build failures using social network analysis on developer communication,” in Proceedings of the 31st International Conference on Software Engineering, ser. ICSE ’09. Washington, DC, USA: IEEE Computer Society, 2009, pp. 1–11.

[36]   C. Ferioli and P. Migliarese, “Supporting organizational relations through information technology in innovative organizational forms,” European Journal of Information Systems, Vol. 5, No. 3, 1996, pp. 196–207.

[37]   M. Antikainen, T. Aaltonen, and J. Väisänen, “The role of trust in OSS communities? Case linux kernel community,” in Open Source Development, Adoption and Innovation, J. Feller, B. Fitzgerald, W. Scacchi, and A. Sillitti, Eds. Springer, 2007, pp. 223–228.

[38]   S.Y. Ho and A. Richardson, “Trust and distrust in Open Source Software development,” Journal of Computer Information Systems, Vol. 54, No. 1, 2013, pp. 84–93.

[39]   P.J. Ågerfalk and B. Fitzgerald, “Outsourcing to an unknown workforce: Exploring opensourcing as a global sourcing strategy,” MIS Quarterly, Vol. 32, No. 2, Jun. 2008, pp. 385–409.

[40]   M. Bengtsson and S. Kock, “Cooperation and competition in relationships between competitors in business networks,” Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, Vol. 14, No. 3, 1999, pp. 178–194.

[41]   D. Tjosvold, Team organization: An enduring competitive advantage. Wiley-Blackwell, 1991, ch. Forging Synergy, pp. 219–233.

[42]   R.C. Mayer, J.H. Davis, and F.D. Schoorman, “An integrative model of organizational trust,” The Academy of Management Review, Vol. 20, No. 3, 1995, pp. 709–734. [Online]. http://www.jstor.org/stable/258792

[43]   M. Levy, C. Loebbecke, and P. Powell, “SMEs, co-opetition and knowledge sharing: The role of information systems,” European Journal of Information Systems, Vol. 12, No. 1, 2003, pp. 3–17.

[44]   R.K. Yin, Case Study Research: Design and Methods (Applied Social Research Methods). USA: SAGE Publications, Inc., 2014.

[45]   M.J. Gallivan, “Striking a balance between trust and control in a virtual organization: A content analysis of open source software case studies,” Information Systems Journal, Vol. 11, No. 4, 2001, pp. 277–304.

[46]   H. Wang and C. Wang, “Open source software adoption: a status report,” IEEE Software, Vol. 18, No. 2, March 2001, pp. 90–95.

[47]   M. Cataldo and J.D. Herbsleb, “Architecting in software ecosystems: Interface translucence as an enabler for scalable collaboration,” in Proceedings of the Fourth European Conference on Software Architecture: Companion Volume, ser. ECSA ’10. New York, NY, USA: ACM, 2010, pp. 65–72.

[48]   Q&A with the founder of Wireshark and Ethereal, 2008. [Online]. http://protocog.com/gerald_combs_interview.html

[49]   L. Freeman, The Development of Social Network Analysis. Canada: Empirical Press, 2006.

[50]   D.S. Cruzes and T. Dyba, “Recommended steps for thematic synthesis in software engineering,” in International Symposium on Empirical Software Engineering and Measurement, Sept 2011, pp. 275–284.

[51]   K.J. Stewart and S. Gosain, “The impact of ideology on effectiveness in open source software development teams,” MIS Quarterly, Vol. 30, No. 2, Jun. 2006, pp. 291–314.

[52]   P.B. M. S. Lane, G. Vyver and S. Howard, “Inter-preventative insights into interpersonal trust and effectiveness of virtual communities of open source software (OSS) developers,” Open Source Systems: Towards Robust Practices, 2004.

[53]   P.B. de Laat, “How can contributors to open-source communities be trusted? on the assumption, inference, and substitution of trust,” Ethics and Information Technology, Vol. 12, No. 4, 2010, pp. 327–341.

[54]   E.S. Raymond, The Cathedral and the Bazaar. Sebastopol, CA, USA: O’Reilly & Associates, Inc., 1999.

[55]   S. Grand, G. von Krogh, D. Leonard, and W. Swap, “Resource allocation beyond firm boundaries: A multi-level model for open source innovation,” Long Range Planning, Vol. 37, No. 6, 2004, pp. 591–610. [Online]. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0024630104001177

[56]   L. Dahlander and M.W. Wallin, “A man on the inside: Unlocking communities as complementary assets,” Research Policy, Vol. 35, No. 8, 2006, pp. 1243–1259. [Online]. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0048733306001387

[57]   A. Mehra, R. Dewan, and M. Freimer, “Firms as incubators of open-source software,” Information Systems Research, Vol. 22, No. 1, Mar. 2011, pp. 22–38.

[58]   M.J. Gallivan, “Striking a balance between trust and control in a virtual organization: a content analysis of open source software case studies,” Information Systems Journal, Vol. 11, No. 4, 2001, pp. 277–304.

[59]   J. Teixeira, G. Robles, and J.M. González-Barahona, “Lessons learned from applying social network analysis on an industrial Free/Libre/Open Source Software ecosystem,” Journal of Internet Services and Applications, Vol. 6, No. 1, 2015, p. 14.

[60]   C. Oezbek, L. Prechelt, and F. Thiel, “The onion has cancer: Some social network analysis visualizations of open source project communication,” in Proceedings of the 3rd International Workshop on Emerging Trends in Free/Libre/Open Source Software Research and Development, ser. FLOSS ’10. New York, NY, USA: ACM, 2010, pp. 5–10.

[61]   S. Marczak, D. Damian, U. Stege, and A. Schröter, “Information brokers in requirement-dependency social networks,” in 16th IEEE International Requirements Engineering Conference, Sept 2008, pp. 53–62.

[62]   A. Nguyen-Duc, D.S. Cruzes, and R. Conradi, “On the role of boundary spanners as team coordination mechanisms in organizationally distributed projects,” in 9th International Conference on Global Software Engineering, Aug. 2014, pp. 125–134.

[63]   J. Linåker, H. Munir, K. Wnuk, and C.E. Mols, “Motivating the contributions: An open innovation perspective on what to share as open source software,” Journal of Systems and Software, Vol. 135, 2018, pp. 17–36. [Online]. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0164121217302169

©2015 e-Informatyka.pl, All rights reserved.

Built on WordPress Theme: Mediaphase Lite by ThemeFurnace.