Investigating Evolution in Open Source Software

Desmond Greer*, Desmond Greer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

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Lehman’s well-known laws of software evolution have existed since the early 1980’s and although they have been nuanced, augmented and discussed many times since then, software and software development practices have changed dramatically since then, not least due to the rise and popularity of open source software (OSS). OSS is written collaboratively with the process and products publically observable, whereas the original laws were derived based on a very different context. The question then arises if Lehman’s laws apply to modern day OSS software. The GitHub repository is the most comprehensive source of OSS projects and is used here to obtain data on how OSS projects have evolved. This work uses one hundred open source projects hosted on GitHub. Metrics are obtained via the provided API, using a purpose-built workbench and several of Lehman’s laws are evaluated using the data available. Coupled with a critique of how judgements can be made from the data available, the study has discovered that the evidence does not support many of the laws. An important proviso with such an approach is the limitation on what data can be extracted and/or inferred from the GitHub API. Nonetheless, there is enough of a challenge made to the laws to warrant further study and a need to revisit some of the laws in the context of open source development.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationComputational Science and Its Applications – ICCSA 2019 - 19th International Conference, 2019, Proceedings
Subtitle of host publicationProc. 2019 International Conference on Computational Science and its Applications (ICCSA)
EditorsOsvaldo Gervasi, Elena Stankova, Vladimir Korkhov, Carmelo Torre, Eufemia Tarantino, Sanjay Misra, Beniamino Murgante, Ana Maria A.C. Rocha, David Taniar, Bernady O. Apduhan
Place of PublicationSwitzerland
PublisherSpringer Nature Switzerland
Number of pages15
ISBN (Print)9783030243074
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Event19th International Conference on Computational Science and Its Applications, ICCSA 2019 - Saint Petersburg, Russian Federation
Duration: 01 Jul 201904 Jul 2019

Publication series

NameLecture Notes in Computer Science (including subseries Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence and Lecture Notes in Bioinformatics)
Volume11623 LNCS
ISSN (Print)0302-9743
ISSN (Electronic)1611-3349


Conference19th International Conference on Computational Science and Its Applications, ICCSA 2019
Country/TerritoryRussian Federation
CitySaint Petersburg


  • Empirical software engineering
  • Open source software
  • Repository mining
  • Software evolution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Theoretical Computer Science
  • Computer Science(all)


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