May the Fork Be with You: A Short History of Open Source Forks


Every time there is a fork, and I think forks are actually good things, it means somebody sees a need and a technical reason to do something different from the standard kernel. But most forks are failures. They find that the things they needed were not actually worth doing and as a result, most forks die. — Linus Torvalds.

Last week, a number of parties agitated for the forking of the open source Docker container software, citing a number of dissatisfactions with how the technology was progressing, including Docker Inc.’s rapid release schedule. Fork of an existing code base is a weighty decision, one that could force the many parties reliant on the software to choose one option or the other.

The history of open source is full of open source forks. A lot of forks are extremely successful. One of the reasons behind the success of these forks was that they were created out of a need The need of a community that was not fulfilled by the original project. Original projects may frown at their forks, they may fight back but the reality is, as Torvalds said, somebody saw a reason to branch out. In many cases, forks became more successful than the mother project due to overwhelmingly support for community behind them.

We’re agnostic about whether Docker should be forked, or if a fork would be successful. But in this story, we have picked some of the most successful forks of enterprise software in the history of open source.

Read more at The New Stack