March 5: Amrit Tiwana to speak on The Influence of Software Platform Modularity on Platform Abandonment: An Empirical Study of Firefox Extension Developers

Amrit Tiwana

Associate Professor,

Iowa State University

March 5, 2010

Alter Hall 405, 1000am – 1130am


With competition increasingly among rival software platforms, retaining third-party developers outside firm boundaries is increasingly important. Such “module” developers often provide critically-differentiating technical innovations and new ideas, thus are vital to a platform’s success. This study addresses the underexplored question of how and why platform modularity—both technical and organizational—influences platform abandonment by developers. We introduce the notion of systems integration costs—which comprise both cross-module integration and module-platform integration—as a key explanatory construct in our nomological network.

We develop three ideas, building on modular systems theory. First, a decrease in systems integration costs decreases the likelihood of platform abandonment by module developers. Second, different facets of technical modularity differentially impact systems integration costs. Third, these relationships are moderated by organizational modularity i.e., how authority over technical decisions is shared between a module developer and the platform owner. Tests using data from developers of 342 modules for Mozilla’s Firefox browser platform largely support the proposed ideas.