Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Software

Open Source Growing At an Exponential Rate 146

Posted by Soulskill
from the gaining-ground dept.
sipmeister writes "Two computer scientists who work for enterprise software giant SAP have shown that open source is growing at an exponential rate. Not only is the code base growing exponentially, but also the number of viable projects. Researchers Amit Deshpande and Dirk Riehle analyzed the database of open source startup ohloh.net and looked at the last 16 years of growth in open source. They consistently got the best fit for the data using an exponential model. Relating this to open source market revenue, Desphande and Riehle conclude that open source is eating into closed source at a non-trivial pace."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Open Source Growing At an Exponential Rate

Comments Filter:
  • I for one (Score:5, Funny)

    by setagllib (753300) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @11:29PM (#22748018)
    I for one welcome our new open source overlords :)
    • by cptnapalm (120276) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @11:40PM (#22748076)
      Oh, thank you! My, what a friendly bunch of abject servants you all are. I simply must tell all my fellow FOSS overlords all about how sweet you all have been in accepting the yoke placed around your necks by our imperious hands.
    • I don't know. The Google super-geniuses are already beginning to worry me...
    • Re:I for one (Score:5, Insightful)

      by francium de neobie (590783) on Friday March 14, 2008 @12:51AM (#22748404)
      Why waste time welcoming us when you can contribute and become an overlord yourself? ;)
      • Re:I for one (Score:5, Interesting)

        by smitty_one_each (243267) * on Friday March 14, 2008 @06:24AM (#22749462) Homepage Journal
        But if everyone is an overlord, who are the serfs?
        Or is that the real point?
      • Re:I for one (Score:4, Insightful)

        by hey! (33014) on Friday March 14, 2008 @06:51AM (#22749532) Homepage Journal
        And poetically, "Operation Overlord" was the code name for the allied invasion of Normandy, which signaled the beginning of the end of the European war.

        Of course, we are much more at what Churchill would have termed the "end of the beginning" stage when it comes to free software, and in that spirit I offer a Churchill quotation that is rather apt:

        This is no war of chieftains or of princes, of dynasties or national ambition; it is a war of peoples and of causes. There are vast numbers, not only in this island but in every land, who will render faithful service in this war but whose names will never be known, whose deeds will never be recorded. This is a war of the Unknown Warriors; but let all strive without failing in faith or in duty, and the dark curse of Hitler will be lifted from our age."


        Of course, it's not precisely true that "their deeds will never be recorded", at least if they are using source control as they should.
  • Viral License? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by phantomcircuit (938963) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @11:34PM (#22748046) Homepage
    So the accusation that the GPL is a viral license wasn't just a bunch of bullshit?
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      The GPL concerns free software, no open source software. This study has no bearing on how 'viral' the GPL is.
    • by jd (1658)
      Wrong exponent. Turns out it's closer to rabbits.
      • by sgt scrub (869860)
        As in "Silly Rabbits" or "No! Not the killer rabbit!"
        • It ends up in the most extraordinary, improbable circumstances. It's hunted by fudd. It survives anything thrown at it. Nyahhhhhhhhhh. What's up,*.doc?
    • Re:Viral License? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by howlingmadhowie (943150) on Friday March 14, 2008 @02:01AM (#22748636)
      i find complaints about the GPL being viral somewhat amusing, seeing as it is invariably closed-source software which is viral and forces everybody else to buy it if they want to interact with it. the GPL however produces free software which everybody can interact with as they wish.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Teckla (630646)

        i find complaints about the GPL being viral somewhat amusing, seeing as it is invariably closed-source software which is viral and forces everybody else to buy it if they want to interact with it. the GPL however produces free software which everybody can interact with as they wish.

        Source code that is licensed under the GPL is viral in nature. Richard Stallman wrote the GPL that way on purpose so that it would tend to spread to more and more source code. It's his weapon of choice to help shape the software world the way he thinks is best.

        I don't personally agree with his belief that all source code should be open, as I believe that party A should have the freedom to buy closed source software from party B if that is their choice. Mr. Stallman would have you believe that party A and

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by xappax (876447)
          Ok, so you don't like big bossy Stallman trying to tell you what to do. That's fine. But characterizing the GPL as some kind of tool to prevent voluntary exchanges is silly.

          It comes down to this: either you believe in "intellectual property" rights or not. If you do, whenever a developer creates code, it's their property, and they can establish whatever conditions they like for other people getting to use it. Some people use the GPL as their conditions. They're not saying they swear allegiance to St
        • by Bralkein (685733)
          You make it sound like the GPL is a deadly weapon that seeks out closed-source software and destroys it! The GPL describes a list of freedoms and restrictions governing the use of a piece of software. If a developer agrees with those items on the list, then they can apply them to their own software. If they do this, then as a bonus they will be able to make full use of code from other GPL users, because they agree on the rules governing its use.

          Now, this doesn't preclude a copyright holder from making ot
      • by RAMMS+EIN (578166)
        You have software and protocols mixed up. It is open standards for file formats, protocols, etc. that allows interoperability. Open source is mainly a way to put the users of the software in control of the software: you don't have to rely on the vendor for bugfixes and other improvements, as you would with closed source software. Of course, it is also true that open source developers (including users) tend to favor open standards, but they are still different things.
    • Re:Viral License? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by IBBoard (1128019) on Friday March 14, 2008 @03:42AM (#22748976) Homepage
      Only if your virus is of the "make you freer, healthier and happier" type.
      • by Alsee (515537)
        They can't cure the common cold, but of course the government cures THAT virus.

        -
    • by apt142 (574425)
      I don't know if the growth has anything to do with being viral. Growth of software in general is probably exponential.

      Another thought is that there is a lot of code out there to build on. So, a lot of new projects are probably modifying and forking existing code. Or just building on top of them. When you have the power to do that you can specify how you like things. For example: How many flavors of Linux are there compared to varieties of Windows? Compare that to the number of users in each camp.
  • Something commonly found on the internet increases in growth exponentially.

    Seriously it would be emberassing if it werent. The # of people who have seen goatse has gone up 1000s of times in the last year. That doesnt make distended anuses cool. Ty for the non-news.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by argent (18001)
      Yah, I'd like to see them do the same curve fit for commercial software. If it's not also exponential I'll eat your hat.

      (not mine, it's icky)
  • Competition (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AKAImBatman (238306) <akaimbatman@gmai ... m minus language> on Thursday March 13, 2008 @11:39PM (#22748070) Homepage Journal

    Relating this to open source market revenue, Desphande and Riehle conclude that open source is eating into closed source at a non-trivial pace.

    Welcome to competition. Open Source tends to cover the areas where software is well established and should be commoditized. As much as we'd all like to keep charging $250 a copy for a library to unzip files, technology marches on. Commercial providers of technology must work harder to win the dollars of their customer. And I for one think the results can only be positive.

    What's particularly interesting to note is that web services are the latest craze in software development. The idea is that the value is not so much in the software itself, but in the service provided. This means that both using and supporting Open Source development can help these companies deliver real value to their customers rather than twiddling their thumbs on problems that are long-solved.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      What's particularly interesting to note is that web services are the latest craze in software development.

      Sorry, I must have missed that memo. How many major name web services actually make money today?

      I would wager that the overwhelming majority of software development is still nothing to do with web services, and moreover that those web services that do have real value to someone are mostly (like a lot of software) written for in-house use and not to make money through the software-as-a-service model. I would also wager that of those businesses set up to operate on a software-as-a-service model, very few

      • Re:Competition (Score:4, Insightful)

        by AKAImBatman (238306) <akaimbatman@gmai ... m minus language> on Friday March 14, 2008 @12:11AM (#22748246) Homepage Journal

        Sorry, I must have missed that memo. How many major name web services actually make money today?

        A lot more than you think, apparently. My last two employers have provided services over the web in the Financial and Health Care industries. They're both rather well-off from that business alone.

        A more visible example would be news and blog sites. Quite a few of them make a killing off of advertisements. Their profit models are more difficult to maintain than direct service costs, I'll grant you, but many do well for themselves in spite of the challenges facing them.

        On another note, I did just occur to me that I may have caused some confusion by using the term "web services". A lot of people think "SOAP" when they hear that term. While I do know a company or two who charges for access to their SOAP interface (basically, a really fancy remote database interface), I was referring primarily to the delivery of business services over the web. My apologies for any confusion. :-)
        • Ah, OK. If you're talking about anybody providing a service via the web, then sure, it's a significant part of the industry. I assumed you meant Web Services(TM)(R) (patent pending). :-)

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by RAMMS+EIN (578166)
      ``Welcome to competition. Open Source tends to cover the areas where software is well established and should be commoditized. As much as we'd all like to keep charging $250 a copy for a library to unzip files, technology marches on. Commercial providers of technology must work harder to win the dollars of their customer.''

      I agree with the first part, but the last sentence isn't necessarily true. I've worked in commercial software development for some time now, and there has been an ongoing shift towards ope
      • I'm not really sure how you're disagreeing with me. In fact, it sounds like we're on the exact same page. I won't pay for ZIP libraries anymore because I can get Open Source products that do just as good of a job. But I will pay for GarageBand because it's an excellent product with no commoditized equivalent. Similarly, a lot of people pay for Photoshop because it still has a lot of high-end features that GIMP does not replicate. :-)
  • by winmine (934311) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @11:44PM (#22748106)
    Seriously, don't get the cynical mathematicians on /. going about hyperbole like "exponential rates".

    Well, the exponent could be negative, did you think about that? Huh??
  • by Soleen (925936) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @11:45PM (#22748112)
    This is sad that code base of Open Source projects is growing exponentially. Projects become fat ugly and unmanageable. It is also getting harder to debug, port, and even use such programs. http://suckless.org/ [suckless.org] has several programs that do their job every well and yet very managable. For example window manager: dwm less than 2K lines of code, is the most feature complete WM I've seen. I've been using it as my main window manager for over year, and was very happy with it. There are few good CLI applications availble that hold approach of been efficient and useful and almost no GUI applications.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Bert64 (520050)
      There are some GUI apps that work well too, you just have to consider if a GUI is the best option for a particular app...
      A good example i can think of is "xv", it's a program for viewing images and thus really needs to hook into a GUI of some kind. It hasn't really been updated since 1994, and is quite fast and stable, and most operations can be controlled from keyboard or GUI.
      • A good example i can think of is "xv", it's a program for viewing images and thus really needs to hook into a GUI of some kind.

        For the record, if you didn't know already, xv is shareware and not Free Software. Imagemagick's "display" command is much more recent and under an open source license.

    • by fritsd (924429)
      Well, the article said that it was most likely only the *number* of projects that was growing exponentially, whereas their *size* (or in your words fat-, ugly- and unmanageable-ness; I know what you mean) was growing something more like quadratically.
    • by CAIMLAS (41445)
      The code base is not only growing, but a lot of that growth, I think, is due to a number of things:

      * Increased project features. This is both a good and bad thing.
      * New projects to implement things which haven't been done in open source yet; especially during the "start up" phase of dev, when there is no clear-cut project with momentum/mind share, there's going to be a lot of duplicated effort. And, of course, many of these projects simply get abandoned when efforts are focused.
      * More projects. Each project
  • What is growing? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @11:48PM (#22748132)

    “Measuring programming progress by lines of code is like measuring aircraft building progress by weight.” — Bill Gates

    The rest of us got over this particular naive metric years ago. The fact that lines of OSS code produced are growing exponentially doesn't tell us anything useful about how much useful stuff can now be done with OSS.

    Moreover, the rate of growth now is not the interesting thing. The total volume of serious OSS is still relatively small, and so is its growth in absolute terms. The future potential is far more interesting to explore.

    For example, if (as TFA tells us) packaged OSS generated revenues of $1.8B in 2006 and this was around 0.7% of total revenue generated from all packaged software sales, then I disagree with the article's claim that the OSS revenue was not trivial compared to the market as a whole. In business terms, 0.7% market share is nothing. On the other hand, if you also say that the OSS revenue is doubling every year while the total remains roughly constant, and you have evidence that this will continue giving exponential growth, then your data suggests that in a few years the OSS revenue very much will be significant.

    However, I'm struggling to find data to support those claims on a first quick look at TFA. The pretty pictures just show that the volume of code is going up, which doesn't tell us anything about the value (economic or practical) of what's being written, nor what the future trends for that value are likely to be.

    • Re:What is growing? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by AKAImBatman (238306) <akaimbatman@gmai ... m minus language> on Friday March 14, 2008 @12:29AM (#22748330) Homepage Journal
      - FireFox
      - Apache Webserver
      - Derby Database
      - Sun Java Server Application Server (aka Glassfish)
      - PDFBox
      - TortoiseCVS
      - OpenPortal
      - Netbeans
      - Rhino
      - GWT
      - POI
      - PostgreSQL
      - MySQL
      - Solaris
      - BCEL
      - ANT
      - FOP
      - Rome (RSS)
      - FFMPEG
      - VLC
      - FileZilla
      - GIMP
      - DOSBox
      - QEMU
      - Cygwin
      - JHDL
      - Bouncy Castle
      - jTDS
      - PHP
      - GCC

      The list above is an off-the-top-of-my-head list of Open Source projects that I use and rely upon on a regular basis. It has grown significantly over the years, going from a relatively small list of key programs to permeating nearly every aspect of my day-to-day life and work. If you did a similar inventory of the OSS products you use, I wouldn't be surprised if you came up with a similarly growing list.

      So while the article may not answer all your questions, some answers can be found by just looking closer to home. :-)
      • Re:What is growing? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by pembo13 (770295) on Friday March 14, 2008 @01:54AM (#22748618) Homepage

        Let me pad your list a bit with things of the top of my head

        • Subversion
        • Linux
        • MythTV
        • OpenOffice.org
        • Thunderbird
        • Python
        • Gtk
        • Qt
        • SQLite
        • Audacity
        • VLC
        • GCC
        • Eclipse
        • KDE
        • KDEvelop
        • Notepad++
        • Samba
        • NFS
        • OpenSSH
        • Pidgin
        • Inkscape

        And thats just the stuff I use regularly.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by EWIPlayer (881908)
        Has anyone thought to ask what closed source is doing? Is it growing exponentially as well? Is it growing faster? Without something to compare it to, saying that OSS is growing exponentially is about as significant as saying it's growing linearly and all the best programmers have long hair.
      • by Blakey Rat (99501)
        "Bouncy Castle?"

        But, seriously, all this tells me is that open source geeks use open source. Duh.

        How about a survey of the average computer user, to find what open source apps they use? Getting data like this from Slashdot doesn't do anybody any good, and doesn't tell us anything useful.
        • "Bouncy Castle?"

          Bouncy Castle: http://www.bouncycastle.org/ [bouncycastle.org]

          Best crypto lib this side of the solar system. :-)

          But, seriously, all this tells me is that open source geeks use open source. Duh.

          That matters not. Just as all those open standards and government-provided data improves the quality of products in traditional industries, Open Source improves the level of quality in technological services. Joe Average doesn't really care how that PDF he's using came to be, but the engineers who created the solution he

      • The list above is an off-the-top-of-my-head list of Open Source projects that I use and rely upon on a regular basis. It has grown significantly over the years, going from a relatively small list of key programs to permeating nearly every aspect of my day-to-day life and work. If you did a similar inventory of the OSS products you use, I wouldn't be surprised if you came up with a similarly growing list.

        Sure, I use plenty of OSS, and I'm grateful to those who have contributed to it and then given it away for the benefit of others.

        However, the list certainly isn't growing exponentially. There are a few major applications I use frequently — Firefox, Thunderbird, OpenOffice, a few programming-related tools — but I've been using these for a while. I won't need two web browsers next year, four the year after, and eight by 2011.

        As I've often observed in these Slashdot discussions, OSS has a few

    • by Jade E. 2 (313290)

      The fact that lines of OSS code produced are growing exponentially doesn't tell us anything useful about how much useful stuff can now be done with OSS.

      No, but it means we're going to get there eventually. Or haven't you heard the theory that a million code monkeys hammering at random on a million open source projects for infinity will eventually produce user friendly software to complete any imaginable task?

    • by wellingj (1030460)

      "Measuring programming progress by lines of code is like measuring aircraft building progress by weight." -- Bill Gates
      LOL. That fucker is one to talk. Ad Hominem FTW!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by epine (68316)

      The pretty pictures just show that the volume of code is going up, which doesn't tell us anything about the value (economic or practical) of what's being written, nor what the future trends for that value are likely to be.

      Neither is the GDP a particularly good measure of economic progress, since the figure is quite happy to add a mess to the cost of cleaning up the mess and then tell you that you are quite wealthy.

      LOC has the same problem: it will add lines of code creating a bug to lines of code working around the bug.

      The purchase of an SUV adds to the GDP more than a less expensive vehicle. The SUV adds yet more to the GDP when it burns more gas to travel the same distance. If that SUV rolls over on the highway two year

    • by dodobh (65811)
      It isn't only about revenue growth. If OSS hits at infrastructure components, then a lot of vendors will find that their market is actually shrinking. So while value is being added, the actual size of the software market is no indicator of that value.

      Economists have no idea of how to measure value not contributed in money, so a large sharing economy simply goes uncounted. The same phenomenon manifests itself in the (RI|MP)AA announcements of the notional loss due to copyright violations.
    • by Bert64 (520050)
      But you are talking about packaged OSS, a very significant portion of OSS users don't buy packaged software, and it's very hard to quantify the number of people downloading and redistributing.
      Many organizations will download one copy, and then use it on several machines too. The OSS model doesn't really fit in with traditional market revenue stats.
  • by nguy (1207026) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @11:49PM (#22748142)
    My bank account is also growing exponentially, at 1% interest. That doesn't make me rich any time soon.

    Exppnential growth is a meaningless property since many things grow exponentially, many of them quite slowly. What matters is the growth rate and any upper limits to growth.
  • typing away on an equivalent number of typewriters over their lifetime (~40 years).... at least one of them will have typed the complete works of Shakespeare.
    • Not really. If you all the atoms in the known universe and make chimpanzees out of them and have them type from the start 13.74B years ago until now you would not have 1 sonnet. You wouldn't even need Chimpanzees. You could just claim every book ever written or that ever will be written is already available. Just find them in the Universal library, holding all the permutation of letters and punctuations. If you think the latter is silly you probably should accept the silliness of the former.
      • I know it's conjecture but doesn't pi have all you will ever need somewhere in it?

        No simians required (or should that be: we don't need no steenking simians?).

      • by Titoxd (1116095)
        While I get your point, he is actually right [wikipedia.org]. "Infinite" is the key here.
        • by bstadil (7110)
          It is not that I didn't understand the concept of infinite. The point I was trying to make is that the idea of using infinite to illuminate something anchored in this universe is flawed, if not outright wrong. Another poster made the point that every book ever written or that ever will be written is already embedded in PI, I think that observation elucidates the point equally well. Your rebuttal in not needed as I can just look it up in e.
    • by n3tcat (664243)
      Or the complete kernel of windows. Chimps fling poo, Microsoft coders fling gooey.
  • by eln (21727) on Thursday March 13, 2008 @11:59PM (#22748176) Homepage
    At this rate, it's only a matter of time before Open Source achieves sentience and turns on its creators.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Spy der Mann (805235)
      At this rate, it's only a matter of time before Open Source achieves sentience and turns on its creators.

      Knowing the slashdot crowd, it'll take more than a few curves to do that. Oh, wait...
  • ... and as far as I can tell, most of that growth is all the huge non-modular spaghetti PHP web projects forking endlessly into new varients. I'd like to see that code growth analyzed by unique lines of code or something that factors out all the cut and pasting.
  • by DaveV1.0 (203135) on Friday March 14, 2008 @01:41AM (#22748576) Journal
    Ok, so the code base is growing exponentially. Big fucking deal. Last I checked the signal to noise ratio was so high, it was ridiculous. For every decent quality Open Source project, there are thousands of half-assed attempts to reinvent the wheel. And, you all know the projects I am talking about. The finished projects with a three page bug list and a last version that is over two years old because all the developers left after the "sexy" code was written.

Can't open /usr/fortunes. Lid stuck on cookie jar.

Working...