Lines of Code Breakdown: A Compositional Analysis

Results of analyzing 10 million lines of code across the largest Open Source projects

Last updated February 22, 2024

There are a lot of tools that provide stats on lines of code (LoC). Conventional wisdom has long held that these metrics are fraught, but absent hard data, it has only been possible to gesture toward the disadvantages of relying on LoC, without statistical proof.

GitClear has previously asserted that only 5% of lines of code meaningfully evolve the repo's code base. Because it is an extraordinary claim that 95% of LoC is noise, it is beholden upon us to substantiate this claim with data. That is the purpose of this page.

The funnel below aggregates real world lines of code measurement across 423,913 commits in 100 open source repos between November 23, 2023 and February 22, 2024. On desktop, hover on a funnel step to get more details about it.

First step: All changed code lines

30,186,029 changed lines of code factored into analysis

All changed code lines

The total lines of code in our most recent data set. This includes all lines that changed in any commit, so it is equivalent to the "Lines of Code" metric provided by GitHub or Pluralsight Flow.

Distinct commits

16,359,830 lines remain

Distinct: Ignore duplicated fragments

This step rinses all lines of code that occurred in a branch that is discarded, or code that is committed in multiple branches or repos. Removes 13,826,199 lines

Effecting

13,626,528 lines remain

Effecting: Remove semantic lines

Changes that modify white space, blank lines, language keywords (e.g., begin, include), or types of lines that don't contain meaningful code content relative to the file type. Removes 2,733,302 lines

Substantive

9,611,820 lines remain

Substantive: Negate batch operations

Diff Delta approximates cognitive load per commit. Operations like move, cut/paste and find/replace change many lines but do not represent high cognitive load, so are discarded by this step. Removes 4,014,708 lines

Purposeful

1,118,111 lines remain

Purposeful: Rinse commit artifacts

To normalize away the difference between a developer who commits 100 times vs 1 time daily, we identify churned code, and we devalue large-scale additions (like new libraries). Removes 8,493,709 lines

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Result

3.7% of total
1,118k final LoC

Important code line changes

Once you've cut through all the layers of noise that cloud lines of code, you find only a fraction of code evolving its repo in a purposeful, substantive way. 1,118,111 (3.7%) impacting lines remain