To Fork or Not to Fork: Fork Motivations in SourceForge Projects

TitleTo Fork or Not to Fork: Fork Motivations in SourceForge Projects
Publication TypeConference Proceedings
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsNyman, L, Mikkonen, T
Secondary TitleOpen Source Systems: Grounding Research (OSS 2011)
Date Published10/2011
Keywordsfork rate, sourceforge

A project fork occurs when software developers take a copy of source code from one software package and use it to begin an independent development work that is maintained separately from its origin. Although forking in open source software does not require the permission of the original authors, the new version, nevertheless, competes for the attention of the same developers that have worked on the original version. The motivations developers have for performing forks are many, but in general they have received little attention. In this paper, we present the results of a study of forks performed in SourceForge ( and list the developers’ motivations for their actions. The main motivation, seen in close to half of the cases of forking, was content modification; either adding content to the original program or focusing the content to the needs of a specific segment of users. In a quarter of the cases the motivation was technical modification; either porting the program to new hardware or software, or improving the original.


"Using this search function, we compiled a list of all of the programs with the word “fork”..."
"We then analyzed the motivations stated in the descriptions of the forked programs...."
"Based on the descriptions entered by the developer, we were able to identify motivations for 381 of the forks."

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