In retrospect, Oracle's (news, site) announcement on Friday that it is finally throwing in the towel on OpenOffice.org (OOo) seemed inevitable, but when the original fork happened and the Document Foundation’s LibreOffice project was set up last October, just about anything was in the cards.
Even now, there are still a number of questions, the answers to which will only become clear in time, and which stem from the announcement from Oracle itself.
That Oracle has been a bit vague about its intentions is not really surprising, but this goes beyond vague and really poses the question as to whether OpenOffice is going to disappear, mutate into another project or join with LibreOffice, thus closing the fork -- as many of those in LibreOffice’s community, the Document Foundation (TDF), would like to see.
On Friday, Oracle, issued a statement that contained the following:
Oracle Corporation today is announcing its intention to move OpenOffice.org to a purely community-based open source project and to no longer offer a commercial version of Open Office.
. . . we believe the OpenOffice.org project would be best managed by an organization focused on serving that broad constituency on a non-commercial basis…We intend to begin working immediately with community members to further the continued success of Open Office….”
The problem is that Oracle hasn’t identified what community it will release it to, or where it expects OOo to go. It hasn’t even said whether Oracle will still hold the trademark for OOo, or release it.
OOo, the Document Foundation
The obvious place for Oracle to send OOo is the Document Foundation, created last September after a large number of people working on it left to continue working on it as a free project outside of Oracle, which had acquired OOo as part of the Sun acquisition.
TDF is a vendor-neutral non-profit organization tasked with the governance of the alternative project that arose from the split based on the OpenOffice source code, as well as a considerable amount of code from its own community.
That alternative project became LibreOffice, which has already released its first stable version in January as well as the beta release of LibreOffice 3.4, which will be the second major stable release of the LibreOffice project -- announced the same day Oracle made its OpenOffice announcement.
At the time of the split, TDF had invited Oracle to join, but Oracle politely refused. In fact not only did it refuse, but it also asked a large number of OpenOffice developers to leave the company.
But LibreOffice had a large number of supporters, including many who were involved in the development of OOo, including Red Hat, Google and Novell, as well as many of those in the community who were contributing to OOo, but who shifted to LibreOffice.
The result now, it seems, is that Oracle does not see OOo as a commercially tenable proposition and has decided to throw in the towel. How this will affect the development of Oracle’s own cloud Office suite is also another question that will have to remain unanswered for the moment, but it’s bound to have some consequences.
Will TDF Get OOo?
And the TDF? A full response from TDF will probably take some time, but one of its contributors, Cors Nouws, writing on the Foundation’s Planet blog, said a move would be welcomed by TDF and could lead to a closing of the forks.
This is a big step forward in the direction that I expressed as a wish at the time that The Document Foundation started: That the two paths will merge again. And look, as per today Oracle searches [for] a group, a community that does want to give a home to OpenOffice.org. Me thinks that Oracle will get a warm welcome from The Document Foundation…”
He also points out another advantage of such a move. IBM has an agreement with Oracle on the use of OOo for its Lotus Symphony suite and with Oracle out of the equation, he says, it would enable IBM to give its full commitment to its future development in a free community.
Whether any, all or none of this pans out remains to be seen, but realistically Oracle doesn’t seem to have anywhere else to go with it.