Beyond the Business Model: Incentives for Organizations to Publish Software Source Code

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Abstract

The software stack opened under Open Source Software (OSS) licenses is growing rapidly. Commercial actors have released considerable amounts of previously proprietary source code. These actions beg the question why companies choose a strategy based on giving away software assets? Research on outbound OSS approach has tried to answer this question with the concept of the “OSS business model”. When studying the reasons for code release, we have observed that the business model concept is too generic to capture the many incentives organizations have. Conversely, in this paper we investigate empirically what the companies’ incentives are by means of an exploratory case study of three organizations in different stages of their code release. Our results indicate that the companies aim to promote standardization, obtain development resources, gain cost savings, improve the quality of software, increase the trustworthiness of software, or steer OSS communities. We conclude that future research on outbound OSS could benefit from focusing on the heterogeneous incentives for code release rather than on revenue models.