Oracle, the database giant who bought Sun Microsystems, today announced that they are proposing to contribute OpenOffice.org code to Apache Foundation. With this move, Oracle hopes to get some positive karma from the open source community.
“With today’s proposal to contribute theOpenOffice.org code to The Apache Software Foundation’s Incubator, Oracle continues to demonstrate its commitment to the developer and open source communities. Donating OpenOffice.org to Apache gives this popular consumer software a mature, open, and well established infrastructure to continue well into the future. The Apache Software Foundation’s model makes it possible for commercial and individual volunteer contributors to collaborate on open source product development.” — Luke Kowalski, vice president, Oracle Corporate Architecture Group
OpenOffice.org will be the Apache incubator project for a while before it graduates to a top level project, a standard procedure with any project entering the Apache Foundation. Jim Jagielski, president, The Apache Software Foundation, will be the podling member during the incubation process. He will be responsible for creating a reporting schedule, setting up a project status page, mailing lists and repository space.
This move is interesting because it splits OpenOffice.org community (before the fork) in the middle with one side aligning more to protect the consumer interests and the other aligning more with enterprise interests. After Oracle took over Sun Microsystems and grabbed the rights to OpenOffice.org, a powerful group of developers upset with Oracle forked the project and formed Document Foundation. They released the fork as LibreOffice, a more open and inclusive version of OpenOffice.org. Well, the grumblings were there even before the Oracle acquisition of Sun Microsystems but the new owner made it easier to fork, driving a large chunk of the community to the new non-profit foundation.
When the rumors about Oracle getting rid of OpenOffice.org surfaced, there were some expectations that it will let OpenOffice.org merge with LibreOffice. From the beginning I thought it will not happen because of the powerful interests on both sides. On the LibreOffice side, contributors from Novell and companies like Google preferred the non profit foundation that is very inclusive in accepting the patches and has a license that protects developers interests. They have decided that GNU LGPL Version 3 is the right way to go. On the OpenOffice.org side, you have folks from Oracle and IBM who would want a more flexible open source license to help them on the enterprise side. Especially, IBM with a few millions invested and their plans with Symphony, wanted a more business friendly license. This lead them to the Apache Foundation. When you have stakeholders with interests in the different ends of a spectrum, there is no way the OpenOffice.org community and LibreOffice community can merge. In fact, people who expected such a merger were disappointed and people who wanted a more business friendly home for OpenOffice.org are excited.
The Document Foundation, which had some expectations for a merger between the two communities, was a bit disappointed.
The Document Foundation would welcome the reuniting of the OpenOffice.org and LibreOffice projects into a single community of equals in the wake of the departure of Oracle. The step Oracle has taken today was no doubt taken in good faith, but does not appear to directly achieve this goal. The Apache community, which we respect enormously, has very different expectations and norms – licensing, membership and more – to the existing OpenOffice.org and LibreOffice projects. We regret the missed opportunity but are committed to working with all active community members to devise the best possible future for LibreOffice and OpenOffice.org.
On the bright side, one benefit of this arrangement is the potential for future-proof licensing. The Apache License is compatible with both the LGPLv3+ and MPL licenses, allowing TDF future flexibility to move the entire codebase, to MPLv2 or future LGPL license versions. The Document Foundation believes that commercially-friendly, copy-left licensing provides the best path to constructive participation in, and growth of the project.
Thus, the event is neutral for The Document Foundation, which – as always – remains open to every company, individual or foundation that wishes to participate in co-development. There has never been a better time to get involved and advance the state of the art in free software office suites.
On the other hand, IBM’s Bob Sutor is very excited about the move to Apache Foundation
With this move, we’ll get a chance to see what empowered individuals with the right technical chops can do in a community to innovate on the current code base. I’m very excited to see what they come up with.
As far as I am concerned, I would welcome any move that takes OpenOffice.org out of Oracle. I don’t necessarily see the two forks competing for the marketshare as a bad thing. My philosophy about forking is “Bring it on”. I always feel that forking is good for satisfying the needs of different niche and the long tail. A competition among these two projects will ultimately benefit the users. Just take the example of having competing GNOME and KDE graphical front-ends competing for the mindshare of the same Linux users. I would say that this competition is one of the reasons why Linux desktop could even manage a decent traction. As the world moves more and more into SaaS, I don’t expect LibreOffice or OpenOffice gaining much traction but it will still be important. It will help promote ODF and help evolve the standard further. Even with a move to cloud based applications, the importance of ODF will not go away and, rather, it becomes even more important for protecting the data rights of the users. In this sense, OpenOffice.org and LibreOffice will go a long way in protecting the openness and user rights in the future. What is your take on this issue?
- What the heck is happening with OpenOffice? (UPDATE) (zdnet.com)
- An Invitation to Apache OpenOffice (robweir.com)
- IBM Takes ODF to Another Level (techrights.org)
- OpenOffice and LibreOffice Won’t Be Kissing and Making Up (ostatic.com)