The Lifecycles of Open Source Projects


There are hundreds of thousands of open source projects out there – many are innovative ideas, poised to make a positive impact on the world. There is a much smaller number that move from an idea with one or two maintainers to broad adoption with an active community and investments from other organizations. How does this happen? What moves the needle? Helping projects grow and mature is exactly the mission of the Linux Foundation. We are a place where open source innovators thrive. 

In this article, I want to help you look at each of the project life cycle stages, determine where your project is, and, at a high-level, show how you can move your project successfully through each stage. 

What does success look like?

Open Source projects succeed when the right parties are involved throughout every stage of a project’s life cycle. Project teams work together from the early proposal and planning stages to the projects’ peak maturity stages and eventual wind-down.

This article is targeted to help Open Source Communities and Program Managers identify the life cycle stages of a project and promote the participation of the right committees at the right time to drive the project smoothly and transition it as it develops.

It also analyzes an example of what a project’s participation and challenges look like for an early-stage project compared to a mature project to bring insight into what to expect at those stages.

Open Source project life cycle

Depending on your Open Source project, these stages might vary in name, but most projects center on the same principles and focus on the following stages:



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