Developers of OpenOffice.org (news, site) software broke free of Oracle to create a modified version of the software called LibreOffice, that will be free of Oracle oversight.

 

OpenOffice.org is the leading free and open-source office application suite and alternative to Microsoft Office. It handles word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics and databases and estimates put it at holding 10 percent of the overall office suite market. It was originally StarOffice suite, created by the German company StarDivision, until Sun bought the company in 1999 and launched OpenOffice.org based on StarOffice.

The developers, calling themselves the Document Foundation, will manage and oversee all the work for LibreOffice. LibreOffice is a stripped-down version of OpenOffice.org, including Novell managed updates managed that provide Microsoft compatibility.

Under the Surface, Tensions Run High

The move makes evident the tensions between the open-source community and Oracle over open-source projects like OpenOffice.org and MySQL that were managed by Sun Microsystems before being acquired by Oracle. Members of the OpenOffice.org community haven’t been happy with Oracle, despite the release of two new versions of the software since taking control of the project, reports ComputerWorld.

Oracle regarded the community as "more part of the problem" than the solution, Charles H. Schulz, a project lead for worldwide language development for OpenOffice.org and a member of its community board, told ComputerWorld.

“As the Community approached its second decade (of development of OpenOffice.org), a consensus gradually emerged among leading Community contributors that a new organizational model was needed to take it forward,” said the FAQ on the foundation's Website.

Initial supporters of OfficeLibre include Red Hat, Google, Novell, Free Software Foundation, OASIS, OSI, Canonical and the GNOME foundation. Canonical has already said they will ship LibreOffice with next spring's update of Ubuntu.

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 assignment, which means that LibreOffice will become a collection of copyrights, like the Linux kernel.

The organization may face legal challenges. In the past, Microsoft claimed OpenOffice.org violated numerous patents and speculation is that Microsoft may make a claim again. And since OpenOffice.org relies on Java, Oracle could decide to pursue legal action. 

Oracle is Staying with OpenOffice For Now

The new Foundation is only a week old, but already people are flocking to support it. According to an official press release by The Document Foundation today, the beta of LibreOffice has been downloaded 80,000 times and people have started contributing code, filing bugs and committing patches, along with suggesting new features. 

But these numbers don't seem to phase Oracle. The company has officially stated that it is committed to OpenOffice. In an email to Computer World blogger Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, Oracle PR stated:

"The beauty of open source is that it can be forked by anyone who chooses, as was done [by The Document Foundation]. Our sincerest goal for OpenOffice is that it becomes more widely used so, if this new foundation will help advance OpenOffice and the Open Document Format (ODF), we wish them the best."

The Foundation does hope that Oracle will change its mind at some point and give the OpenOffice brand to it, but until then will continue with their forward momentum.