The ownership of digital infrastructure: Exploring the deployment of software libraries in a digital innovation cluster

Lior Fink, Jianhua Shao, Yossi Lichtenstein, Stefan Haefliger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Boundary resources have been shown to enable the arm’s-length relationships between platform owners and third-party developers that underlie digital innovation in platform ecosystems. While boundary resources that are owned by open-source communities and small-scale software vendors are also critical components in the digital infrastructure, their role in digital innovation has yet to be systematically explored. In particular, software libraries are popular boundary resources that provide functionality without the need for continued interaction with their owners. They are used extensively by commercial vendors to enable customization of their software products, by communities to disseminate open-source software, and by big-tech platform owners to provide functionality that does not involve control. This article reports on the deployment of such software libraries in the web and mobile (Android) contexts by 107 start-up companies in London. Our findings show that libraries owned by big-tech companies, product vendors, and communities coexist; that the deployment of big-tech libraries is unaffected by the scale of the deploying start-up; and that context evolution paths are consequential for library deployment. These findings portray a balanced picture of digital infrastructure as neither the community-based utopia of early open-source research nor the dystopia of the recent digital dominance literature.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)251-269
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Information Technology
Volume35
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2020

Keywords

  • Digital infrastructure
  • boundary resources
  • deployment
  • entrepreneurial companies
  • ownership
  • software development context
  • software libraries

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