Arguments Over the Future of OpenOffice.org: Page 3

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True, the Document Foundation has indicated a willingness to work with the Apache Foundation, and states that it has received an email from Jim Jagielski, "who is anticipating frequent contacts between the Apache Software Foundation and The Document Foundation over the next few months." So there is at least the possibility of a diplomatic reunification occurring in the near future.

But, for now, the community's efforts, if not its individuals, remain divided in a way that is harmful to all parties. Schultz tells me that a project on the scale of OpenOffice.org under Sun requires ten million Euros a year. Alternatively, it needs to mobilize volunteer contributors on a massive scale. Yet, even if Apache can find the cash or volunteers, that still means a duplication of efforts that is wasteful and inefficient.

Furthermore, Schultz argues, reunification can only serve the greater good. It would restore confidence among corporate and private users, and remove any uncertainty about Open Document Format, the ISO standard for office files that both LibreOffice and OpenOffice.org offer as an alternative to Microsoft Office's file formats.

Still another problem is branding. Although OpenOffice.org was not as well known as proprietary rivals such as Microsoft Office, over the course of ten years it had developed a certain name recognition. By contrast, in the seven months of its existence, LibreOffice has yet to achieve comparable recognition. In fact, as a new brand, LibreOffice is sometimes regarded with suspicion by users outside the free software community.

Specifically, Schulz argues for reunification under LibreOffice. His argument is that LibreOffice has already proven itself better able to attract community developers than OpenOffice.org ever was. "In seven months, we have attracted twenty times more developers than the OpenOffice.org project, [and] we have extended the number of contributors to a bigger size than the OpenOffice.org project ever had." The strength of this argument only increases when you consider that the Apache version of OpenOffice.org will probably need a month or two to organize, assuming that it become a going concern in the first place.

After the animosity, expecting Oracle to donate anything to The Document Foundation is probably asking too much of human nature. All the same, reunification seems a sensible goal, even if not necessarily under The Document Foundation.

But instead of listening to the community, Oracle has chosen a solution that not only threatens to preserve the existing divisions, but also ignores the wishes of the community by making reunification more difficult. The unsettledness of the solution seems a direct contradiction of Oracle's high-minded statements about supporting FOSS.

Stay Tuned

This story is unfolding rapidly. Rumors are that another twist or two are expected later this week. In addition, another petition is being contemplated by some members of the community -- this time, to The Apache Foundation, requesting that it turn its new assets over to The Document Foundation.

Such a move may not be strictly necessary. It may be enough for Apache to show a willingness to cooperate by joining The Document Foundation. If that happens, efforts would still be duplicated when resources are scarce, but at least some degree of cooperation might happen in a way that was impossible under Oracle.

Maybe then OpenOffice.org could finally be free to become a true community project of the sort that many have dreamed about for years. After Sun's and now Oracle's mismanagement, such an outcome seems long overdue. Let's hope that Apache shows a greater concern for contributors and users than its predecessors.


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Tags: open source, Oracle, Apache, Red Hat, OpenOffice.org


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