Open Source Projects in Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent
Reviewed by Greg Wilson / 2021-10-16
Keywords: Diversity, Open Source
You don't realize what barriers people face if you've never had to get over them. I used to tell people that open source was a great leveller because everyone could contribute. I now realize that claim needs to be qualified with, "…provided they're affluent enough to have free time and good internet connectivity, speak English well enough to join a mostly monolingual conversation, and if they're not white and/or not male, willing to put up with a steady drizzle of disparagement or harassment."
Han2021 is therefore a very welcome look at some of what's happening outside my bubble. As the authors say, "…many Chinese technology companies are embracing open source and choosing to open source their projects. Nevertheless, most previous studies are concentrated on international companies such as Microsoft or Google…" They examined a thousand projects that have been open sourced by Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent, and surveyed a hundred of the programmers involved. Among other things, they find that:
- the most common reasons to open source a project are to gain fame, expand influence, and help with recruiting;
- the most common internationalization effort is providing an English version of the project's README files, and
- projects that put more effort into internationalization are (still) more popular.
Han2021 Junxiao Han, Shuiguang Deng, David Lo, Chen Zhi, Jianwei Yin, and Xin Xia: "An Empirical Study of the Landscape of Open Source Projects in Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent". Proc. International Conference on Software Engineering (ICSE), 2021, 10.1109/icse-seip52600.2021.00039.
Open source software has drawn more and more attention from researchers, developers and companies nowadays. Meanwhile, many Chinese technology companies are embracing open source and choosing to open source their projects. Nevertheless, most previous studies are concentrated on international companies such as Microsoft or Google, while the practical values of open source projects of Chinese technology companies remain unclear. To address this issue, we conduct a mixed-method study to investigate the landscape of projects open sourced by three large Chinese technology companies, namely Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent (BAT). We study the categories and characteristics of open source projects, the developer's perceptions towards open sourcing effort for these companies, and the internationalization effort of their open source projects. We collected 1,000 open source projects that were open sourced by BAT in GitHub and performed an online survey that received 101 responses from developers of these projects. Some key findings include: 1) BAT prefer to open source frontend development projects, 2) 88% of the respondents are positive towards open sourcing software projects in their respective companies, 3) 64% of the respondents reveal that the most common motivations for BAT to open source their projects are the desire to gain fame, expand their influence and gain recruitment advantage, 4) respondents believe that the most common internationalization effort is ``providing an English version of readme files'', 5) projects with more internationalization effort (i.e., include an English readme file) are more popular. Our findings provide directions for software engineering researchers and provide practical suggestions to software developers and Chinese technology companies.