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Understanding Software-2.0: A Study of Machine Learning library usage and evolution Public Deposited

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  • Enabled by a rich ecosystem of Machine Learning (ML) libraries, programming using learned models, i.e., Software-2.0, has gained substantial adoption. However, we do not know what challenges developers encounter when they use ML libraries. With this knowledge gap, researchers miss opportunities to contribute to new research directions, tool builders do not invest resources where automation is most needed, library designers cannot make informed decisions when releasing ML library versions, and developers fail to use common practices when using ML libraries. We present the first large-scale quantitative and qualitative empirical study to shed light on how developers in Software-2.0 use ML libraries, and how this evolution affects their code. Particularly, using static analysis we perform a longitudinal study of 3,394 top-rated open-source projects with 46,125 contributors. To further understand the challenges of ML library evolution, we survey 109 developers who introduce and evolve ML libraries. Using this rich dataset we reveal several novel findings. Among others, we found an increasing trend of using ML libraries: the ratio of new Python projects that use ML libraries increased from 2% in 2013 to 50% in 2018. We identify several usage patterns including: (i) 36% of the projects use multiple ML libraries to implement various stages of the ML workflows, (ii) developers update ML libraries more often than the traditional libraries, (iii) strict upgrades are the most popular for ML libraries among other update kinds, (iv) ML library updates often result in cascading library updates, and (v) ML libraries are often downgraded (22.04% of cases). We also observed unique challenges when evolving and maintaining Software-2.0 such as (i) binary incompatibility of trained ML models, and (ii) benchmarking ML models. Finally, we present actionable implications of our findings for researchers, tool builders, developers, educators, library vendors, and hardware vendors.
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