Friday, May 16, 2014

Free software outpaces proprietary code quality

I was interested to read this recent article in CIOL, describing the analysis of 750 million lines of free software and open source software code through the Coverity Scan service, and comparing commercial usage of the Coverity Development Testing Platform. According to the article, this is the largest sample size that the report has studied to date. Their results: free software code quality outpaces proprietary code code quality.

Key findings from the report include:

  • Open source code quality surpasses proprietary code quality in C/C++ projects. Coverity's analysis found an average defect density of .59 for open source C/C++ projects that leverage the Scan service, compared to an average defect density of .72 for proprietary C/C++ code developed for enterprise projects.
  • Linux continues to be a benchmark for open source quality.
  • C/C++ developers fixed more high-impact defects. Not so much for projects written in Java, for example.

While I would be cautious about overconfidence, these results support Eric S. Raymond's maxim (which he terms "Linus's Law") that "given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow," from The Cathedral and the Bazaar.

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