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Track 1 Lightning Talk: Forking as a Tool for Software Sustainability—An Empirical Study

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Abstract—Forking—the process of cloning a repository, allow- ing development to progress separately to the original project— has become an important part of source control functionality. As forking enables software reuse, it has the potential to play a role in software sustainability, which aims to improve the longevity of software. We studied the relationship between forking and the sustainment, or active life, of a software project. An examination of 9,118 projects hosted on GitHub shows a significant relation- ship between forking and software sustainment, with projects that have forks being, on average, sustained for longer than those that do not, a phenomenon that is true when considering both the length of the original project, and the length of the original project extended by any forks. The results provide evidence that maintaining software via forking is a sustainable software practice, and making software open source improves its sustainability through enabling reuse via forking.


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