Variation occurs in many places in software engineering and takes quite different forms. Software can have different versions, and it can come in different configurations. Software can offer different sets of features, and it can appear in different stages of refactoring without any visible effect in functionality. Traditionally, all these forms of variation have used different representations.While this specialization might have some benefits by facilitating the tailoring to the specific needs of one form of variation, it has also some serious drawbacks. First, different representations prevent or complicate a potential integration of different forms of variation. For example, variation in functionality is currently only poorly supported in most versioning tools by branching. Second, it can be difficult to transfer research results achieved within one representation to other representations. Finally, different representations can lead to duplicated work and a balkanization of variation research efforts.
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