Open-source developers liberate OpenOffice.org from Oracle with a new fork of the popular desktop suite called LibreOffice and establish a new foundation to manage the software.
Some OpenOffice.org developers have created a new version of the OpenOffice.org
application suite called LibreOffice that will be free of Oracle oversight, the
newly formed Document
The Document Foundation
will manage and oversee all the work for LibreOffice. Essentially a vanilla
version of the latest OpenOffice.org, LibreOffice includes the Go-OOo updates
managed by Novell that provide most of the Microsoft compatibility, the
"The Document Foundation will continue to be focused on developing,
supporting and promoting the same software, and it's very much business as
usual," said the FAQ on the foundation's Website.
A beta is already available
on LibreOffice's site.
The idea of forking OpenOffice.org and creating an independent foundation is
not new, dating as far back as the days when Sun Microsystems still sponsored
the project. Even though Sun was friendly to community development, supporting
OpenSolaris, MySQL, OpenOffice.org and VirtualBox, there were many in the
community who wanted to move away from a single commercial sponsor.
Then came Oracle's acquisition of Sun in 2009 and all of Sun's open-source
assets. The database giant has never styled itself as a friend of open source,
and its recent decision to end OpenSolaris
support was not a surprise. The company's online Cloud Suite, which seemed to
be shifting OpenOffice toward a more proprietary model, made OpenOffice.org
Forks of popular software generally flounder due to lack of community
support. However, as an OpenOffice.org fork, LibreOffice will be far less
likely to have that problem, as some of the biggest names in technology have signed
on. Initial supporters include Red Hat, Google, Novell, Free Software
Foundation, OASIS, OSI, Canonical and the
Canonical has already committed to shipping LibreOffice with Ubuntu, as has
Red Hat with Fedora. Under the license agreements, companies such as IBM
can continue to release commercial derivatives of LibreOffice. Oracle can also
do whatever it wants with the OpenOffice brand.
There is some hope that Oracle would do the right thing and give the name
back to the community. "The OpenOffice.org 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," the official
If Oracle does sign on with The Document Foundation, the plan is to revert
back to the OpenOffice.org name. Otherwise, LibreOffice is here to stay.
The nonprofit said it will continue to pursue the goals behind
OpenOffice.org and will produce LibreOffice as a more community-focused
project. This means full support for the ODF document standard, open standards
and an end to paid add-ons. The group has also decided against copyright
and will let code belong to individual developers who
contributed portions of code to the LibreOffice project.
This means that over time LibreOffice will be a collection of copyrights,
like the Linux kernel. No one single person or company will have control.
LibreOffice will have a dual license, falling under LGPLv3+ and MPL (GNU Lesser
General Public License and Mozilla Public License).
"The new Foundation will also mean companies can contribute funds or
resources without worries that they may be helping a commercial
competitor," said the foundation on the FAQ page.
Initial feedback has been primarily positive, with cheers and excitement
peppering various technology forums online. The Document Foundation's decision not
to restrict copyright can only encourage new developer contributions.
There may be some legal pitfalls ahead, however. Microsoft has claimed in
the past that OpenOffice.org violated several of the company's patents, and it is
possible the software giant may respond to the announcement with legal action
against LibreOffice. Similarly, there are parts of OpenOffice.org that rely on
Java, which Oracle may try to attack legally. Many of the key OpenOffice.org
developers are also Oracle employees.
OpenOffice.org has long been the leading free and open-source alternative to
Microsoft Office. The software has set download records on new releases, and
estimates suggest it now accounts for about 10 percent of the overall office