David A. Wheeler's Blog

Thu, 07 May 2009

FLOSS doubles every 14 months!

I just took a look at Red Hat’s 2009 brief to the European Patent Office on why software patents should not be allowed. It’s a nice brief, noting that software patents hinder software innovation, and that there is a sound legal basis not to expand availability of such patents in Europe. (Here’s Red Hat’s press release, and Glyn Moody’s comments (ComputerWorld UK) on it).

Their brief points to another paper with very interesting results: “The Total Growth of Open Source” by Amit Deshpande and Dirk Riehle (Proceedings of the Fourth Conference on Open Source Systems (OSS 2008). Springer Verlag, 2008. Page 197-209). In this paper, they analyze the growth of more than 5000 open source software projects, and show that “the total amount of source code as well as the total number of open source projects is growing at an exponential rate.” In their conclusion they state that the “total amount of source code and the total number of projects double about every 14 months.”

That is an extraordinary rate of growth. Exponential growth can start small, but when it continues it will completely flatten anything not growing exponentially (or growing as fast). This result is consistent with my earlier work, More than a Gigabuck: Estimating GNU/Linux’s Size, which also found very rapid growth in free/libre/open source software (FLOSS).

So if you’re interested in software trends, take a look at “The Total Growth of Open Source” and Red Hat’s brief to the EPO on software patents. I think they’re both worth reading.

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