Open Source Contributors - The Days of Volunteers is Over

Most Open Source Projects are Developed by Corporate Professionals

Matthew Aslett at the 451 group posts an interesting article on the breakdown of contributions to the Eclipse project based on looking at 22 random sub-projects. His article focuses on the way that many open source communities, such as Eclipse are significantly run via corporation contributions and not a collection of individuals. He further links to an article by Forrester’s Jeffrey Hammond who refers to Eclipse as neither a Cathedral nor a Bazaar but rather a Mall. His conclusion is a call for action from other open source communities to provide similar data to see who really is developing the software – individuals and corporations.

In thinking about this concept, I decided to list some other open source projects and take a guess at who is doing the development:

  • SugarCRM – Primarily written by the company with a large, global ecosystem of partners building add on solutions but not core product
  • Chef – primarily written by OpsCode with a community of people writing Cookbooks and Recipes for the base product
  • OpenStack – significant majority of developers are corporate with a few individual developers
  • Android - based on reading the Get Involved page, my guess would be almost all Google employees or other hardware providers adding their hardware connectors

So, without much effort I was able to get a quick list of corporate run open source projects. Of course, everyone will say “what about Linux?” so I found this data from a May 2010 article by Patricia Pickett on

  • 75% of contributors were paid to write Linux as part of their job
  • 18% from volunteers
  • 7% unknown

I think Matthew’s article understates the amount of corporate involvement in open source and the days of the volunteer coder are probably over in significant open source project.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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