The institutions of open source software: examining the Debian community

Juan Mateos-Garcia, W. Edward Steinmueller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Free and open source software activities involve and, perhaps, evolve institutions (rules, norms and standards) that influence the formation, growth, and demise of communities. Community institutions are attractors for some individuals while discouraging other individuals from entering or continuing to participate. Their suitability may change as a community grows. This paper examines the institutions of the Debian community where issues of community identity, distribution of authority, and decentralisation have facilitated growth and development. These same institutions have also resulted in conflicts regarding community purposes and the quality and delivery of the community’s output. We examine the institutional redesign undertaken to address these problems and derive implications for F/LOS communities and companies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)333-344
Number of pages12
JournalInformation, Economics and Policy
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2008

Bibliographical note

This is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Information, Economics and Policy. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Information, Economics and Policy, 20, 4, 2008 10.1016/j.infoecopol.2008.06.001


  • Open source software
  • Debian
  • institutions
  • user communities


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