Why You Should Fork Your Next Open-Source Project

Matt Asay | TechRepublic | September 16, 2014

Code forks, rarely used, turn out to be remarkably effective at driving innovation, so why don't we use them more? Matt Asay explains.

Forking isn't nearly common enough.  The right to "fork," or copy an open-source project and take the copy in a new direction, remains one of open source's cardinal virtues, but it's a right that is rarely exercised. Even as open-source projects have mushroomed to millions of repositories, research by Gregorio Robles and Jes´us M. Gonz´alez-Barahona identifies a mere 220 forks.

While the number of forks has increased over the past few years, one thing hasn't changed: forking an open-source project often succeeds. So, why don't we see more forks?  

As open source has become a standard development procedure for engineers, its incidence has increased -- but not linearly.  In 2008, researcher Dirk Riehle found that the population of open-source projects was growing exponentially.  Since then, open-source project creation has maintained that same heady pace, if not increased, due largely to growth in mobile open-source projects, as Black Duck details...