Innovation in Open Source Software Development: A Tale of Two Features

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Open Source Software Development appears to depart radically from conventional notions of software engineering. In particular, requirements for Open Source projects seem to be asserted rather than elicited.

This paper examines two features of selected open source products: “tabbed browsing” as realized in the Firefox web browser, and “edge magnetism” found in the Gnome desktop environment’s Metacity window manager. Using archives of mailing lists and issue tracking databases, these features were traced from first mention to release, in attempt to discover the process by which requirements are proposed, adopted, and implemented in their respective Open Source projects. The results confirm the importance of user participation in Open Source projects.