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

  • Linus Nyman
  • Tommi Mikkonen
Conference paper
Part of the IFIP Advances in Information and Communication Technology book series (IFIPAICT, volume 365)


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.


  1. 1.
    Fogel: Producing Open Source Software. O’Reilly, Sebastopol (2006)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Raymond: The Cathedral & the Bazaar: Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary. O’Reilly, Sebastopol (2001)Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Moody: The Deeper Significance of LibreOffice 3.3. ComputerWorld UK (January 28, 2011)Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Weber: The Success of Open Source. Harvard University Press, Cambridge (2004)Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Lerner, Tirole: Some Simple Economics of Open Source. The Journal of Industrial Economics 50(2), 197–234 (2002)Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Moody: Who owns commercial open source and can forks work? Linux Journal (April 23, 2009)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© IFIP International Federation for Information Processing 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Linus Nyman
    • 1
  • Tommi Mikkonen
    • 2
  1. 1.Hanken School of EconomicsHelsinkiFinland
  2. 2.Tampere University of TechnologyTampereFinland

Personalised recommendations