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Success and geography in the weightless economy: Evidence from open-source software

with Gábor Békés, Miklós Koren and Aaron Lohmann.

Open source software (OSS) is a global, vast in scale, and extremely successful industry with millions of developers and millions of packages produced. How can groups of independent and geographically dispersed producers work together and create globally used products? This paper describes the relationship between product success (adoption of software) and the geographical dispersion of its producers. Focusing on the largest programming language, JavaScript, we analyze contributions by 217 thousand developers in 300 thousand projects with 78 thousand unique projects imported as intermediate goods (called a dependency). We find that while OSS developers will collaborate more intensively when in close proximity, more widely adopted software packages are written by a more spatially diverse group of developers. We show that this is not driven by the geography of adoption, as developers only marginally prefer locally written packages as intermediate input (dependency). It is not driven by talent distribution across cities either or self-selection of best coders into best projects. We explore explanations for this phenomenon related to selection of coder pairs and search cost.

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Last updated on June 30, 2024. © Julian Hinz 1987–2024.