German Developers Defect From OpenOffice Project

Open source developers in Germany have jumped ship from and joined the newly created open source alternative, the LibreOffice project. The move continues to demonstrate the ongoing tensions between software giant Oracle and open source advocates.

This was starkly illustrated in September, when a number of developers behind announced their independence from Oracle. They did this by creating an independent organisation called ‘The Document Foundation‘ (TDF), and they will distribute a version of the open-source office productivity suite under the name “LibreOffice.”

Oracle Mistrust

It is fair to say that Oracle’s acquisition of sponsor Sun Microsystems has not been universally welcomed in open source circles. In April the creator of Java, James Gosling, left Oracle despite placating developers over Oracle’s intentions for Sun. He later explained his reasons to eWEEK for quitting “creepy” Oracle.

James Gosling

Concerns were also raised over the future of the free database application MySQL, although Oracle has sought to reassure users over its future, despite it competing against its own proprietary database software.

But tensions still remain and now over 30 developers who were responsible for developing and maintaining the German language version of OpenOffice have crossed over to LibreOffice.

This was revealed in a public letter entitled “Every end is a new beginning” to supporters, from project leads Jacqueline Rahemipour and Marko Moeller as well as dozens of other developers.

Developers Jump Ship

“The past days and weeks here in the project were marked by sometimes heated discussions, about how we perceive the co-operation in the project and how we make this more willing and able,” wrote Rahemipour. “Unfortunately, this discussion has not always been objective, problem- and goal-oriented, as it would have been desirable, but sometimes very emotional.”

The developers highlighted how their voluntary work has helped the project grow over the years, but said that sometimes their voluntary work ‘faces limitations’ when it “does not match the ideas of the main sponsor.”

“This has led and still leads to unnecessary misunderstandings and discussions,” said Rahemipour. “To break through these limits, project must evolve and requires an independent body – a Foundation.”

Supporting the TDF

“Oracle’s official response to the announcement of The Document Foundation was clear – Oracle will continue as usual,” Rahemipour added. “Although it has been stressed several times that there will be collaboration on a technical level, and changes are possible – there is no indication from Oracle to change it’s mind on the question of the project organisation and management.”

“The answer for us who sign this letter is clear: We want a change to give the community as well as the software it develops the opportunity to evolve. For this reason, from now on we will support The Document Foundation and will – as a team – develop and promote LibreOffice. We hope that many are going to join us on this path,” said Rahemipour. “We are also aware that every individual has to make his or her own decision freely. We decided to withdraw our previous positions in the germanophone project.”

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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