New Objections to the Apache/OpenOffice Lash-Up Arrive

by Ostatic Staff - Jun. 09, 2011

Recently, we've been covering Oracle's hand-off of the OpenOffice productivity suite project to the Apache Software Foundation. OpenOffice remains a beloved open source project, used by millions of people, and there are a lot of questions swirling in the wake of Oracle's decision. The Document Foundation said that there will be no merger of LibreOffice with OpenOffice, but that it would gladly accept any developers wishing to leave for LibreOffice. That means that OpenOffice will move forward as a community-driven project on its own. Now, former Microsoft developer Keith Curtis is raising some notable objections to Apache's stewardship of OpenOffice.

Curtis has penned an open letter to Apache, which is worth reading. In it, he says:

"This is basically a code dump, not the set of 50(?) full-time engineers who have created / been maintaining this code....LO has just recruited many of the most passionate and interested volunteers and other unaffiliated third-parties...Microsoft would root for Apache to fork the LibreOffice community."

Curtis makes a number of good points about the onging development of OpenOffice, including some particularly good questions about its licensing. However, one has to question his contention that what is going on is a damaging fork. 

It's the nature of open source software to be forked, and in the history of OpenOffice itself, forking has kept development of the project competitive. For example, we've covered the Go-oo fork of OpenOffice a number of times.  OpenOffice is a mature project, and LibreOffice is a fully-realized productivity suite, so development of these suites will probably be incremental going forward, and their existence on separate development tracks may result in more choice for users.

It's also worth noting that OpenOffice has not exactly been handed off to Jim Bob's Open Source Crab Patty Shack.  Very few organizations in the world have as much experience stewarding succesful open source projects as Apache. The organization has vast experience with rallying developers behind projects, organizing community events, and promoting open source brands.

Apache also has clout with top technology vendors. IBM has already said this about the OpenOffice hand-off:

"IBM welcomes Oracle’s contribution of OpenOffice software to the Apache Software Foundation. We look forward to engaging with other community members to advance the technology beginning with our strong support of the incubation process for OpenOffice at Apache."

It seems like they might have a talented developer or two over at IBM, which already bases its Lotus Symphony suite of applications on OpenOffice code. Will OpenOffice be left in the dest, unloved by people who want to advance it? No way. The code base is a valuable entity, and Apache is probably among the best stewards for it going forward.