Why Open Source is Growing at an Amazing Pace: Because it Can
Amit Deshpande and Dirk Riehle of SAP Research have put together an impressive study of the total growth of open source.
What Deshpande and Riehle have found is that "the total amount of source code as well as the total number of open source projects is growing at an exponential rate." That means that the lines of code (LoC) contained in open source projects is growing, as well as the number of projects themselves.
Some might debate whether the total LoC growing "at an exponential rate" is a good thing -- but I'm going to assume that most of that here is desirable additional functionality and not mere code bloat... particularly since open source developers are often motivated to profile and examine applications to see if they are bloating, and what can be done if so.
Again -- this doesn't come as a surprise, but it's nice to see data confirming that application growth and development in the open source community are rolling along at an explosive pace. I've seen this myself recently with Tasque (pronounced "Task") -- a Mono-based, simple and elegant task manager that was put together by Boyd Timothy and Calvin Gaisford in about a week as part of Novell's Hack Week II. In just a few weeks, Tasque went from drawing board to released code, to inclusion in several Linux distributions.
Here's why Tasque, and so many other open source projects, are springing into being and developing dedicated communities: Because the open source model allows agile development by disperse groups of people that can build on the already massive foundation of open source libraries and applications.
To use Tasque as an example once again -- Timothy and Gaisford didn't need to start from scratch. They had Mono and GNOME libraries to build on, and could draw examples from a similar application (Tomboy). As an added bonus, the developers didn't need to get approval to work on the project, sell the idea to a committee or go through any bureaucracy to develop Tasque.
Also, because Tasque is open source, other developers are free to take it and modify it in ways that the original developers might not have foreseen or simply might not have time for. Take this discussion about adding a Ctrl-N function to add a new task. No wonder open source is growing so rapidly, with so few barriers to entry aside from the ability to write code in the first place.
[Study, and some insightful commentary, found via John Mark Walker's blog. Thanks, John Mark!]