Java Generics Adoption: How New Features are Introduced, Championed, or Ignored

Proceedings of the International Working Conference on Mining Software Repositories |

Published by ACM

Support for generic programming was added to the Java language in 2004, representing perhaps the most significant change to one of the most widely used programming languages today. Researchers and language designers anticipated this this addition would relieve many long-standing problems plaguing developers, but surprisingly, no one has yet measured whether generics actually provide such relief. In this paper, we report on the first empirical investigation into how Java generics have been integrated into open source software by automatically mining the history of 20 popular open source Java programs, traversing more than 500 million lines of code in the process. We evaluate five hypotheses, each based on assertions made by prior researchers, about how Java developers use generics. For example, our results suggest that generics do not significantly reduce the number of type casts and that generics are usually adopted by a single champion in a project, rather than all committers.