OpenOffice.org Community Declares Independence

The simmering tensions between software giant Oracle and open source advocates has erupted into the open after a number of developers behind the OpenOffice.org desktop productivity suite, 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.”

“The community of volunteers who develop and promote OpenOffice.org, the leading free office software, announce a major change in the project’s structure,” said TDF. “After ten years’ successful growth with Sun Microsystems as founding and principal sponsor, the project launches an independent foundation called “The Document Foundation”, to fulfil the promise of independence written in the original charter.”

Declaration Of Independence

“The Foundation will be the cornerstone of a new ecosystem where individuals and organisations can contribute to and benefit from the availability of a truly free office suite, thre group promises.  From now on, the OpenOffice.org community will be known as “The Document Foundation,” it added.

Oracle has apparently been invited to become a member of the new Foundation, and has been asked if it will donate the brand the community has grown during the past ten years. Pending this decision, the brand “LibreOffice” has been chosen for the software in the meantime.

Developers are being urged to join the project and contribute to the code, “to shape the future of office productivity suites.”

Sun inherited OpenOffice.org after it acquired German company StarDivision in 1999, along with its StarOffice suite.

Sun then launched OpenOffice.org (based on StarOffice) back in 2000. Sun in turn was acquired by Oracle in 2010 after a bitter and protracted acquisition process.

“We believe that the Foundation is a key step for the evolution of the free office suite, as it liberates the development of the code and the evolution of the project from the constraints represented by the commercial interests of a single company,” said community veteran Sophie Gautier, speaking for the group of volunteers.

Welcomed Move

Meanwhile open source stalwart and FSF President Richard Stallman has welcomed the LibreOffice release and its stated policy of only recommending free software.

“I’m very pleased that the Document Foundation will not recommend nonfree add-ons, since they are the main freedom problem of the current OpenOffice.org,” said Stallman. “I hope that the LibreOffice developers and the Oracle-employed developers of OpenOffice will be able to cooperate on development of the body of the code.”

The move was also welcomed by Google, Novell, Red Hat, Canonical (the makers of Ubuntu) and others.

Oracle Tensions

The acquisition of Sun Microsystems by Oracle has never sat easy with the open source community. In April James Gosling the creator of Java left Oracle, despite placating developers over Oracle’s intentions for Sun. He later explained his reasons to eWEEK for quitting “creepy” Oracle.

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

And surprsingly a survey in July actually found renewed interest in Java and faster growth of MySQL, despite widespread concern over Oracle’s acquisition of Sun.

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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