Does openness warrant success? As part of the webinos project we researched many major open source projects and looked into the conditions that make a project a success. We set out to measure openness and see what are the best practices in making open source projects a success.
(in a rush? download the full Open Governance Index report here)
Licenses vs governance Use of open source software in the mobile space is now business as usual. Much has been written and debated regarding open source licenses – from the early days of the GPL license to the modern days of the Android platform.
Despite the widespread use of open source, from Android to WebKit, there is one very important aspect of open source projects that has been neglected: openness and how to measure it. Openness goes far beyond the open source license terms and into what is termed Governance.
While licenses determine the rights to use, copy and modify, governance determines the right to gain visibility, to influence and to create derivatives of a project, whether in the form of spin-offs, applications or devices.
The governance model used by an open source project encapsulates all the hard questions about a project: – Who decides on the project roadmap? – How transparent are the decision-making processes? – Can anyone follow the discussions and meetings taking place in the community? – Can anyone create derivatives based on the project? – What compliance requirements are there for creating derivative handsets or applications, and how are these requirements enforced?
Governance determines who has influence and control over the project or platform – beyond what is legally required in the open source license.
Governance = openness In today’s world of commercially-led mobile open source projects, it is not enough to understand the open source license used by a project. It is the governance model that makes the difference between an “open” and a “closed” project.
To quantify governance, we researched eight mobile open source projects: Android, MeeGo, Linux, Qt, WebKit, Mozilla, Eclipse and Symbian. We selected these projects based on breadth of coverage; we picked both successful (Android) and unsuccessful projects (Symbian); both single-sponsor (Qt) and multi-sponsor projects (Eclipse); and both projects based on meritocracy (Linux) and membership status (Eclipse).
Open Governance Index We quantified governance by introducing the Open Governance Index, a measure of open source project “openness”. The Index comprises thirteen metrics across the four areas of governance: