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OpenOffice files Oracle divorce papers

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Open sourcers have seized control of the OpenOffice project and product and declared their independence from database giant Oracle.

The OpenOffice.org Project has unveiled a major restructuring that separates itself from Oracle and that takes responsibility for OpenOffice away from a single company.

Oracle had been OpenOffice's principal contributor - a role it inherited thanks to its acquisition of the well meaning but slow-witted Sun Microsystems earlier this year.

While OpenOffice had a successful development track record, it was also the code base for Sun's StarOffice so features were broadly developed to serve that goal.

From now on, though, OpenOffice's development and direction will be decided by a steering committee of developers and national language project managers.

Driving home the changes, OpenOffice.org project is now The Document Foundation while the OpenOffice.org suite has been given the temporary name of LibreOffice.

Oracle, meanwhile, has been humiliatingly invited to re-join the OpenOffice community by applying to the Foundation. It's also been asked to donate the OpenOffice.org brand that it owns to the community.

Until there's a decision from Oracle the OpenOffice.org suite will be retain the LibreOffice name. Based on Oracle's history of responding to community ultimatums, we suggest you get used to LibreOffice.

The coup is an attempt by open sourcers and tech companies vested in OpenOffice and distrustful of Oracle to pry control over the project and product's future away from the unfriendly giant.

The fact Oracle's been invited to join can only be seen as cutting Oracle out of the action, as the company isn't a joiner - as the OpenSolaris community recently found out.

OpenSolaris, the Sun project spun up to oversee the open-source edition of Solaris, recently shut up shop after Oracle refused to meet or work with it, and announced OpenSolaris would only be delivered after the commercial version of Solaris was shipped.

Meanwhile, the body that stewards Java - Java Community Process (JCP) - sits in limbo awaiting word on its future with Oracle last week putting out its roadmap for the future of the language. Oracle inherited Sun's ownership of the JCP, with the power to veto any JCP decision on Java.

On Office, Larry Ellison's company is also close to delivering its own productivity suite, a closed-source online product called Cloud Office using Java FX and Open Document Format (ODF). The Reg understands it is not based on the OpenOffice suite.

With uncertainty growing, Novell, Red Hat, Canonical, the Open Source Initiative, the Free Software Foundation (FSF), and Google - sued in August by Oracle for claimed patent violations in Java on Android - have put their names to the Foundation and LibreOffice push.

Chris DiBona, Google's open source programs manager at Google, said the search giant is "proud" to be a supported for the Foundation and participant in the project.

"The creation of The Document Foundation is a great step forward in encouraging further development of open source office suites. Having a level playing field for all contributors is fundamental in creating a broad and active community around an open source software project," DiBona said in a statement.

In a clear reference to Oracle's need to re-apply for OpenOffice membership, FSF firebrand Richard Stallman said he hoped the Oracle-employed developers of OpenOffice will be able to co-operate on development of the body of the code.

In a telling statement announcing the restructuring and renaming, the Foundation recalled the cozy past with Sun and the uncertainty of what's ahead.

"After ten years' successful growth with Sun Microsystems as founding and principal sponsor, the project launches an independent foundation called The Document Foundation", to fulfill the promise of independence written in the original charter," The Foundation said. ®

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