As a sub-category of open innovation community, open source community（OSC）has spearheaded the practical frontier of open innovation and digital innovation for more than 20 years. Bonded by shared ideology characterized by emphasis on freedom, openness and collaboration, advocates of open source movement have initiated tens of thousands of communities operating around open source software, of which Apache, Debian, Linux, Mozilla and SourceForge are successful examples at the global level. So far, the related spin-offs of these communities, such as Apache Web server, MySQL database system, Firefox browser, and etc., have accumulated a large number of loyal users worldwide. However, it is noted that both the practice and the theory relevant to OSC in China are far behind the West. Thus, the authors feel a grave necessity for combing and perfecting extant research findings regarding OSC, thereby shedding light on the future development of OSC and firms engaging in open source businesses in China.
In this context, this paper first explores the origin of “open source” from the very beginning and defines the concept of OSC. To make the research boundary between OSC and other forms of online community much clearer, in case of experimental bias incurred by confusing these two types of community, this paper also portrays the uniqueness of OSC by comparing it with other communities from three perspectives: IPR, innovation chain, value proposition. Then, based on 188 OSC-related literatures indexed by SSCI from 2001 to 2019, this paper conducts a bibliometric analysis via CiteSpace, which is already a mature scientific measurement tool in academia, to extensively and systematically profile and comb the status as well as the veins of extant researches. After adding some other supplementary materials such as working documents on OSC, this paper makes a further refinement of the main contents of all the literatures retrieved, and puts forward a two-dimensional knowledge framework comprising “organizational dimension” and “individual dimension”.
Through the bibliometric analysis on 188 OSC-related literatures, this paper finds that: The research topics of OSC densely burst out in the first eight years since the keyword of “open source community” first appeared in papers indexed by SSCI in 2001. After 2009, the emergence of novel research topics undergoes a steep downward curve and becomes increasingly sparse. By building up a knowledge framework, this paper finds that: In terms of internal governance, OSC has typical traits of self-organization and spontaneously develops a set of gradually maturing governance mechanisms, which shape the forms of OSC into semi-bureaucracy. Moreover, as offline interactive scenes are gradually enriched, the core basis for forming as well as distributing leadership or authority is changing from technical contributions to social networks. For OSC, the governance mechanisms of IPR are also unique because of the existence of Contributor License Agreement（CLA）, such as GPL, BSD, LGPL, etc. As for the participation of external subjects, firms join OSC mainly driven by economic motivators, while individual users mainly by ideological motivators. In spite of differences in motivations and forms of involvement, both firms and individuals encounter barriers to entry when joining OSC, and the extent to which they are blocked is influenced by the characteristics of their origins. For example, people from open source “pure player”（firms of which the business models are mainly configured around open source product or technology）are more welcomed than those from incumbents in software industry, such as Microsoft. Finally, extant researches prove that participating in OSC is beneficial to both firms’ and individuals’ performance.
According to the results above, this paper brings up three managerial implications for firms with an intention to participate deeply in OSC, and then proposes several future research directions for academic reference mainly centering on the coordinating mechanisms between OSC and firms, in hope of attracting more Chinese scholars’ attention and contributing knowledge to the development of China’s OSC and the improvement of its governance mechanism.