Rules of Engagement: Why and How Companies Participate in OSS

Mariam Guizani, Aileen Abril Castro-Guzman, Anita Sarma, Igor Steinmacher

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationProceedings - 2023 IEEE/ACM 45th International Conference on Software Engineering, ICSE 2023
PublisherIEEE Computer Society
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9781665457019
StatePublished - 2023
Event45th IEEE/ACM International Conference on Software Engineering, ICSE 2023 - Melbourne, Australia
Duration: May 15 2023May 16 2023

Publication series

NameProceedings - International Conference on Software Engineering
ISSN (Print)0270-5257


Conference45th IEEE/ACM International Conference on Software Engineering, ICSE 2023


  • OSS
  • Open Source
  • companies in open source
  • diversity
  • motivations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software


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