WebKit web-browsing technologies are central to most mobile-platforms.

Open-source software components integrated within mobile-platforms Mian et al. (2011)

Do firms like Apple, Google, Nokia, Samsung really collaborate all together with WebKit development?
Or otherwise, each of them works on its own niche/piece of WebKit?

Research Team

Jose Teixeira Turku School of Economics University of Turku, Turku, Finland -
Tingting Lin Turku School of Economics University of Turku, Turku, Finland -
M. Krész Institute of Applied Sciences University of Szeged, Szeged, Hungary kresz@jgypk.u -

Methodological details

We combined and virtual-ethnography (VE) with a Social Network Analysis (SNA) over publicly-available and naturally-occurring open-source data that allowed us to re-construct and visualize the evolution of the WebKit collaboration in a sequence of networks.

Virtual Ethnography

We started by screening, by ethnographic manners, publicly available data such as company announcements, financial reports and specialized-press that allowed us to gain insights of the industrial context.

Initial research questions

  1. How companies like Apple, Google and Nokia collaborate in the development of the WebKit project?
  2. Do they collaborate by integrated manners? Or each of them works on its own piece?
  3. How do for-profit companies collaborate with the open-source community?

Initially screened websites

Table 1 - Initial sample of websites
Website Title The WebKit Open Source Project Slashdot: News for nerds, stuff that matters
http://www.zdnet.comZDNet | Technology News, Analysis, Comments and Product Reviews for IT Professionals News - CNET News Computerworld - IT news, features, blogs, tech reviews, career advice TechCrunch - The latest technology news and information on startups Apple - Press Info - Press Releases News from Google – Google Nokia Press » Nokia – Press KDE - Experience Freedom! Broadcasting Corporation New York Times - Breaking News, World News & Multimedia | Comprehensive Singapore and international news and analysis

Other screened websites


Table 2 - Key selected events within WebKit
Date Event
Jun 2001 WebKit started within Apple as a fork of KHTML and KJS open-source projects.
September 2006 Apple, forced by the open-source community, published WebKit source-code in a public repository
Jun 2007 Apple released 1st generation of iPhone
Sep 2008 Google launched Chrome and Android
Jun 2009 Nokia and Intel Announced Strategic Relationship
Feb 2011 Nokia and Microsoft formed a broad strategic partnership. Intel searched for new partners for Meego.
Jul 2012 The patent war broke out between Apple and Samsung, and their hostilities reached climax with the first trial in U.S. $1.049 billion in damages.
Apr 2013 Google announced to fork WebKit's core components, just 1 month after Apple registered WebKit as its trademark.

Social Network Analysis

After attaining a better understanding of the the competitive dynamics of the mobile-devices and PC industries, we started extracting and analysing the social network of the WebKit community leveraging SNA (Scott, 2012; Wasserman and Faust, 1994), which is an emergent method widely established across disciplines of social sciences in general (Borgatti and Foster, 2003; Uzzi, 1996; Wasserman and Faust, 1994; Watts, 2004)

The visualisation power of our approach that data-mines the WebKit source-code and its version-control-system change-log is is illustrated in the following video:

WebKit Open-Source Development


Inputs for our analysis were the WebKit source-code and its version-control-system change-log. An archived version of the raw-data is here available within a single Tarball. We covered contributions to the WebKit source-code from 1st September 2006 till 3rd April 2013. Data-cleansing efforts were minimal thanks to WebKit strict code-commit policies.


Python scripts scrapping the WebKit change-log are available here within a single Tarball

The first visualisation were performed ad-hoc "in-code" using the networkx and matplot libraries.


Both our community visualisation and sub-community detection approaches (network clustering) relied on 6 networks, each capturing different phases of the WebKit development.

For understanding the evolution of the code-based collaboration, we connect developers who work on the same file, constructing a network of collaboration activities among developers. With the visualization of the network over time, we gain insights on collaboration and rivalry within the software project.

How we modeled the network
Modelling collaboration from the source-code repositories change-log

The collaborative network during a certain time slice can be formally defined as:
Gt = (V,Av,E)
V = A set of nodes representing the developers contributing to the WebKit open-source software project
E = A set of edges, identifying the connections between two developers if they have worked on the same software source-code file.
Av = A set of nodes-attributes, capturing each developer’s company affiliation. This information is extracted from the email address of each developer.

Table 3 - Essential collaborative-networks driving the Social Network Analysis
Network Phase RawData
WebKitSNA1 From Apple release of WebKit until the launch of Iphone
WebKitSNA2 From the Iphone to the debut of Google Chrome and Android
WebKitSNA3 From Apple and Google debuts to the joining forces of Intel and Nokia with Meego
WebKitSNA4 From Meego to the strategic marriage of Nokia and Microsoft
WebKitSNA5 From the Nokia and Microsoft strategic marriage to Apple vs Samsung patents-war
WebKitSNA6 From patent-war hostilities to Google blink fork of WebKit

Main used methods were:

  1. Visualisation with degree centrality
  2. Markov chain clustering.
  3. Modularity maximization heuristic.
  4. Hub based community detection with different parameter configurations.


Figure 1 Jun 2011 Sep 2006
From September 2006 "Apple, forced by the open-source community, published WebKit source-code in a public repository"
To June 29, 2007 Apple releases 1st gen iphone
Figure 2 Sep 2006 to Jun 2007
From June 29, 2007 Apple releases 1st gen iphone
To Sep 2008 Google launches Chrome and Android
Figure 3 Jun 2007 to Sep 2008
From Sep 2008 Google launches Chrome and Android
To Jun 23, 2009 Nokia and Intel Announce Strategic Relationship
Figure 4 Jun 2009 to Feb 2011
From Jun 23, 2009 Nokia and Intel Announce Strategic Relationship
To 3 Feb. 11, 2011 Nokia and Microsoft today announced plans to form a broad strategic partnership. Nokia divorces from Intel. Intel look for new partners for Meego.
Figure 5 Feb 2011 to Jul 2012
From 3 Feb. 11, 2011 Nokia and Microsoft today announced plans to form a broad strategic partnership. Nokia divorces from Intel. Intel look for new partners for Meego.
To July 30, 2012 Apple and Samsung patent wars - hostilities climax with U.S.A first trial !! The jury awarded Apple $1.049 billion in damages !!
Figure 6 Jul 2012 to Apr 2013
From July 30, 2012 Apple and Samsung patent wars - hostilities climax with U.S.A first trial !! The jury awarded Apple $1.049 billion in damages !!
To April 3, 2013 Google announced that it would produce a fork of WebKit's WebCore component known as Blink. One month after apple registering WebKit as a Apple trademark


Here we list some interesting findings (at least for us):



In our view, this study made some methodological contributions:


We believe to confirm/reinforce the current body of theoretical knowledge: But we would like to add that:


Managerial practice

Software engineering practice

Open-coopetion software engineering practice
Situating Open-Coopetition in practice

Regulatory practice

By understanding better how rival firms collaborate by open-source manners, we are better prepared for:

Theory building

The Open-Coopetion theory
Drafting the Open-Coopetition theory
Coopetition vs Open-Coopetion
Contrasting Coopetition (established) vs. Open-Coopetition (proposed))
Open-coopetion in pracice
Situating Open-Coopetition in practice

Key references

  1. Mian, S., Teixeira, J., and Koskivaara, E. (2011). Open-Source Software Implications in the Competitive Mobile Platforms Market. In IFIP Wg 6.11 Conference on E-Business, E-Services, and E-Society, I3E 2011, (Springer), pp. 110–129. OA PS
  2. Myers, M. (1999) Investigating information systems with ethnographic research. Commun. AIS, vol. 2, no. 4es. OA PS
  3. Atkinson, P. (2006) Rescuing autoethnography. J. Contemp. Ethnogr., vol. 35, no. 4, pp. 400–404. OA PS
  4. Scott, J. (2012). Social network analysis (SAGE Publications Limited). PS
  5. Wasserman, S., and Faust, K. (1995). Social network analysis: Methods and applications (Cambridge university press). PS
  6. Borgatti, S.P., and Foster, P.C. (2003). The network paradigm in organizational research: A review and typology. J. Manag. 29, 991–1013. PS
  7. Uzzi, B. (1996). The sources and consequences of embeddedness for the economic performance of organizations: The network effect. Am. Sociol. Rev. 674–698. PS
  8. Watts, D.J. (2004). The“ new” science of networks. Annu. Rev. Sociol. 243–270. OA PS


  1. Teixeira, J., Lin T. Collaboration in the open-source arena: The WebKit case arXiv:1401.5996. OA

Seminars and guest-talks where this research was presented

  1. KISS'28 Kilpisjärvi Information Systems Seminar, Kilpisjärvi, Finland - 21.-27.4.2013.
  2. Lero Invited Speaker, Lero, University of Limerick, Ireland - 3.10.2013.
  3. Inforte seminar on Practice Research, Aalto Universiry, Helsinki, Finland - 20-21.1.2014.
  4. INSNA Sunbelt XXXIV, St. Pete, USA - 18-23.2.2014


The idea of this research project surged by pure serendipity at the Inforte seminar on Big Data and Social Media Analytics by Sudha Ram and Matti Rossi. The researchers thank the financial support from the Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (grant SFRHBD615612009) and Liikesivistysrahasto (grant 3-1815). Acknowledgements also for Lero - the Irish software engineering research centre were part of this research was conducted. Special thanks to Jari Salo, Reima Suomi, Sarah Beecham and Gregorio Robles for early comments on manuscripts. A last word to the WebKit developers for developing cool, open and research-friendly technologies.

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