The second issue of the R Journal is out now, and in addition to a bevy of contributed articles and some news from the R Core Group on the new help system introduced in R 2.10, there’s an invited section called, intriguingly, "The Future of R". In that section John Fox provides an exhaustively researched and insightful review of the history of the R project, its social structure as an open-source project, and an analysis of why the project succeeded and its prospects for the future. A recommended read. One tiny nugget that caught my eye though, is quantitative evidence for a claim that I’ve made anecdotally for a long time: R is growing exponentially. The proof is in the packages: the chart below shows the number of packages on CRAN for every release since 2001. The Y axis is the number of packages (on a log scale); the X axis is time (annotated by the version number).
Exponential growth. It’s tailed off very slightly for the last two releases shown (and 2.10 isn’t included, having just been released), but it’s a clear indicator of the growth of the R community that creates and submits the wealth of packages on CRAN. (Update Jan 7: An updated chart is available.)