Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Open Office revisited

Many genealogists I know use Open Office, a free open-source office suite available on the Internet. I few weeks ago I wrote a post about problems with Open Office, essentially, the company that was "sponsoring" the program, Oracle, decided to divest itself of the program. Some of the contributor/developers split off and formed a new website and program called Libre Office. In response to my post, I got the following comment: "Openoffice is with the Apache Foundation, after Oracle gave it to them. I can only say you are sadly misinformed." Was I sadly misinformed? Actually not. What I said in my post was accurate.

Here are some more details about the Libre Office/Open Office situation.

Leading members of the community have founded an organization called "The Document Foundation." The Document Foundation team is listed on their website. It certainly appears that The Document Foundation/Libre Office has a wide international base of former OpenOffice affiliates. Here is some their explanation for the change to Libre Office if you want to read the whole explanation go to Frequently Asked Questions:
When Sun Microsystems decided to release the software under an open-source licence a decade ago, it was making an act of faith in Community based development, which it hoped would one day lead to an independent foundation. This gamble has proved hugely successful, and today is unquestionably the world's leading open-source productivity suite. As the Community approached its second decade, a consensus gradually emerged among leading Community contributors that a new organisational model was needed to take it forward. From the options available, an independent, community owned and managed democratic foundation emerged as the best solution.

he Document Foundation will continue to be focused on developing, supporting, and promoting the same software, and it's very much business as usual. We are simply moving to a new and more appropriate organisational model for the next decade - a logical development from Sun's inspirational launch a decade ago. 

For ten years we have used the same name - "" - for both the Community and the software. We've decided it removes ambiguity to have a different name for the two, so the Community is now "The Document Foundation", and the software "LibreOffice". Note: there are other examples of this usage in the free software community - e.g. the Mozilla Foundation with the Firefox browser. was originally created by Sun Microsystems which was subsequently purchased by Oracle. Apparently, there were problems with Oracle's management of the OpenOffice product. Here are some other statements:
The trademark is owned by Oracle Corporation. Our hope is that Oracle will donate this to the Foundation, along with the other assets it holds in trust for the Community, in due course, once legal etc issues are resolved. However, we need to continue work in the meantime - hence "LibreOffice" ("free office").

Since Oracle's takeover of Sun Microsystems, the Community has been under "notice to quit" from our previous Collabnet infrastructure. With today's announcement of a Foundation, we now have an entity which can own our emerging new infrastructure. 
LibreOffice is The Document Foundation's reason for existence. We do not have and will not have a commercial product which receives preferential treatment. We only have one focus - delivering the best free office suite for our users - LibreOffice. 
 So what happened to OpenOffice? The commentator is correct, the OpenOffice product was "donated" to another foundation called the Apache Foundation. The commentator refers to a news release of May 31, 2011 as reported on ZDNet "Oracle gives OpenOffice to Apache." The articles says, in part,
In a statement issued this morning, June 1st, Oracle’s Luke Kowalski, VP of Oracle Corporate Architecture Group, stated that the company was going to “contribute the code to The Apache Software Foundation’s Incubator. The company then claims that Oracle is doing this to “demonstrate its commitment to the developer and open source communities. [By] Donating 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.”
 There are however problems as shown by this statement in the ZDNet article,

At first, Apache tells me, OpenOffice will be an “incubating project” or “podling.” According to Jagielski, “Podlings that demonstrate that their community and products have been well-governed under the ASF’s consensus-driven process, release all code under the Apache License v2.0 , and fulfill the responsibilities of an Incubating project move one step closer to graduation to a TLP. Upon a Project’s maturation to a Top-Level Projects (TLP), a Project Management Committee (PMC) is formed to guide its day-to-day operations, including community development and product releases.”
That’s licensing part could be be a bit of a problem. OpenOffice is currently licensed under the GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL) 3.0. It’s not entirely compatible with the Apache License 2.0.
 Now, today, 9 October 2011, where is OpenOffice? Here is one commentary on ars technica, "Oracle spurns LibreOffice, wants to give OOo to Apache Foundation."
Oracle announced a proposal this week to transfer the (OOo) project to the Apache Software Foundation (ASF). The move would put OOo under the umbrella of the Apache Incubator program and involve transitioning the project's source code to the permissive Apache License. The proposal is currently under review by the Apache Incubator Project Management Committee, which has not yet issued a decision.
The OOo project fell into Oracle's hands when the database giant acquired Sun. After taking control of the project, Oracle failed to address the long-standing grievances of OOo community members who were dissatisfied with Sun's mismanagement of the project. The problems—which related to governance issues, copyright assignment policies, and the difficulty of getting certain code contributions merged—festered under Oracle's brief stewardship of OOo.
 This is a comment by the writer of the ars technica article:
Dumping the largely abandoned husk of OOo into the Apache Incubator so that it can continue to be developed parallel to LibreOffice is not a particularly constructive maneuver. If Oracle had opted to take this route last year before its friction with the community necessitated the LibreOffice fork, it would likely have been welcomed by all parties. But handing the project to the ASF at this point, when a significant portion of the OOo community has already chosen to back TDF, is just petty and distasteful.
 If you have made it this far in my post, I suggest that you can see that what I wrote originally is accurate. Obviously, there are a huge number of details. What actually happened to OpenOffice is further explained in the same article,
IBM, which remained on the sidelines when TDF's backers split from Oracle last year, has emerged as the only independent proponent of Oracle's plan to give OOo to Apache. IBM says that it will assign its own developers to work on OOo through Apache and will commit resources to the effort. IBM's endorsement of the plan is disappointing, but it's not particularly surprising. IBM sells its own proprietary derivative of OOo and would obviously benefit if the project were to move forward under the more permissive licensing terms that ASF would adopt. The licensing change, however, could prove detrimental in the long term.
Hence the statements by LibreOffice/The Document Foundation about a commercial product receiving preferential treatment. Where is OpenOffice with the Apache Software Foundation? It is incubating, will it come out of "incubation?" You can check for yourself at the Incubator Page.

Any thoughts? I suggest that this is one of the not too often discussed problems with the so-called open architecture programs. More on this subject in the future.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this post. I have been using for a long time, but knew nothing of the schism or LibreOffice. I'll look into that "version." From what you have said, I don't get warm fuzzies about the future of OOo at Apache.