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What CIOs need to know about open source forking

Paul Rubens | Oct. 5, 2016
Forking is a concept that can strike terror into the heart of any CIO that relies on open source software. Here’s how to make sure you’re on the right side of the split.

Should CIOs fear forks?

The best way to answer this question may be to look at historical data about what happens when a fork occurs.

In their research, Robles and Gonzales-Barahona set out to “document all significant forks.” As of August, 2011, they identified 220 forked projects. In fewer than nine percent of such cases both the original project and the fork were discontinued. And when you take out the case where a project is forked because of the (possible or actual) discontinuation of the original, the original project gets discontinued about 10 percent of the time, and the fork gets discontinued only slightly more frequently (14 percent of the time).

That means that nine times out of 10 the original project or a fork from it will continue to exist to provide you with the software that you have been relying on. That's why Nextcloud's Karlitschek says the best thing to do when faced with a fork is to keep your cool. "My advice to CIOs is to relax, see how the two projects develop and see which one ends up with better features. And then decide in a few months which one to back. It's not something they have to do immediately."


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