foobar on computers, software and the rest of the world

Open source grows exponentially

, posted: 16-Apr-2008 06:18

Open source grows exponentially, and doubles every 14 months. This at least is the finding by someone who looked at the total amount of open source software out there, counted the projects and total lines of code. Here is an utterly impressive graph from the study, which shows that the speed at which new projects are added also grows exponentially:

Exponential growth of open source

And here then the total number of open source projects (mind you, this only counts active projects):

Total number of open source projects
The graph for the overall lines of code looks very similar (exponential growth), so I haven't included it here.

Of course it will not be able to keep the exponential growth forever, but it is interesting to imagine this growth for a little while longer, and then therefore a world in which the majority of all code is open! That little fantasy aside, the exponential growth we see right now is a pretty strong indicator that there is tremendous uptake of open source across the board.

It would be interesting to see which percentage of the code is contributed by companies vs. private individuals. Nevertheless, if this trend continues then eventually open source will become the norm, rather than the exception. This is also echoed by Gartner when they say:
In a few years' time, almost all businesses will use open source... 98 to 99 percent of SaaS will be open source...
I think they mean to say: 98 to 99 percent of SaaS offerings will be using open source software. But still, it looks like open source is something you can only ignore at your own peril.


Other related posts:
UK government supports open source
25 open source projects for software development
Dabbling in OpenSolaris

Comment by freitasm, on 16-Apr-2008 09:11

While the number of projects is a meaningful information, "lines of code" as a metric makes no sense at all. Badly written code tend to have more lines - and does it include the comments?

More interesting metrics would something related to functionality instead.

Author's note by foobar, on 16-Apr-2008 09:18

@freitasm: Absolutely, LOC in general is not a good measurement of much of anything. The researchers included it in their paper, but personally I found the stats related to the project numbers more interesting, which is why I included those graphs here.

One word about the LOC, though: These lines of code were counted across a large number of projects, written in a large number of different programming languages, by developers ranging in their skills from bad to excellent. I think that overall it averages itself out enough to actually become somewhat relevant again. The fact that LOC increases in line with the overall number of projects seems to indicate that.

Comment by Dave Witzel, on 5-May-2008 23:51

It is hard to find a perfect metric for anything, but lines of code has to be a pretty decent one for measuring "effort put into software development". There can't be too many programmers out there just trying to pump up their LoC count! Most are doing as good a job as they can and the number of lines reflects that.

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New Zealand

  • Who I am: Software developer and consultant.
  • What I do: System level programming, Linux/Unix. C, C++, Java, Python, and a long time ago even Assembler.
  • What I like: I'm a big fan of free and open source software. I'm Windows-free, running Ubuntu on my laptop. To a somewhat lesser degree, I also follow the SaaS industry.
  • Where I have been: Here and there, all over the place.

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