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We describe an empirical study of open-source and closed-source software projects. The motivation for this research is to quantitatively investigate common perceptions about open-source projects, and to validate these perceptions through an empirical study. We investigate the hypothesis that open-source software grows more quickly, but does not find evidence to support this. The project growth is similar for all the projects in the analysis, indicating that other factors may limit growth. The hypothesis that creativity is more prevalent in open-source software is also examined, and evidence to support this hypothesis is found using the metric of functions added over time. The concept of open-source projects succeeding because of their simplicity is not supported by the analysis, nor is the hypothesis of open-source projects being more modular. However, the belief that defects are found and fixed more rapidly in open-source projects is supported by an analysis of the functions modified. We find support for two of the five common beliefs and conclude that, when implementing or switching to the open-source development model, practitioners should ensure that an appropriate metrics collection strategy is in place to verify the perceived benefits.
Date of Publication: April 2004