Open Source and Free Software (OS/FS) has gained much notoriety in the last few years. Hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of programmers around the world have spent significant amounts of their time developing open source software. Why do so many individuals donate contribute their efforts toward building software that they give away for free? How do large numbers of contributors coordinate their efforts, if they never meet in person? Why is open source software often more robust, bug-free, secure, and yet cheaper, than its proprietary software counterpart?

A broad literature has grown to answer such questions. However, only a few groups have studied the population of developers themselves to help understand who they are, how much they contribute, and why they do it. In 2002, our colleagues at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands, led by Rishab Ghosh, conducted the largest survey of OS/FS developers to date, the Free/Libre/Open Source Software (FLOSS) survey. A total of 2784 OS/FS developers completed the FLOSS survey's online questionnaire, which asked questions about developers’ personal backgrounds, employment status, ties to proprietary software firms, motivations to program OS/FS, level of involvement in OS/FS, and monetary or non-monetary rewards.

We have conducted a second large-scale survey of 1588 developers of open source and free software, which we call the FLOSS-US survey for 2003. The first FLOSS survey targeted primarily European OS/FS developers, with 71% of respondents living in Europe or Russia, only 13% living in the United States, and roughly 17% living elsewhere in Europe or the world. The FLOSS-US survey sampled many more developers from countries outside of Europe, with 53% living in Western Europe, 27% living in North America, 8% in Russia and Eastern Europe, 5% in East Asia, 3% in Australia and New Zealand, 3% in Latin America, and 1% in the Middle East and Africa.

The FLOSS-US survey asked questions on some topics addressed by the first FLOSS survey, as well as questions about several new topics not previously addressed: developers’ roles in OS/FS projects, the extent and intensity of their OS/FS contributions, support given to OS/FS projects by proprietary software firms, and relationships with commercial enterprises based on OS/FS. Altogether, the FLOSS-US survey provides an interesting perspective on the real contributions of the broad and diverse field of open source developers.

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