Evaluating Code Clone Genealogies at Release Level: An Empirical Study

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Code clone genealogies show how clone groups evolve with the evolution of the associated software system, and thus could provide important insights on the maintenance implications of clones. In this paper, we provide an in-depth empirical study for evaluating clone genealogies in evolving open source systems at the release level. We develop a clone genealogy extractor, examine 17 open source C, Java, C++ and C# systems of diverse varieties and study different dimensions of how clone groups evolve with the evolution of the software systems. Our study shows that majority of the clone groups of the clone genealogies either propagate without any syntactic changes or change consistently in the subsequent releases, and that many of the genealogies remain alive during the evolution. These findings seem to be consistent with the findings of a previous study that clones may not be as detrimental in software maintenance as believed to be (at least by many of us), and that instead of aggressively refactoring clones, we should possibly focus on tracking and managing clones during the evolution of software systems.