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Oracle re-commits to ODF after OpenOffice divorce

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Oracle is spinning its participation in a forthcoming Open Document Format (ODF) event as proof of its continued commitment to the OpenOffice.org community.

On the eve of the ODF Plugfest in Brussels, Belgium, the database giant has announced that it will participate in the two-day event, which starts on Thursday.

The Plugfest is designed to achieve maximum interoperability of the standard, which is supported in Microsoft Office, Lotus Symphony, GoogleDocs, KOffice, AbiWord, Gnumeric, and libraries such as AsposeWords, ODFDOM, and lpOD in addition to the Oracle-owned OpenOffice.

At the same time, Oracle said that its new, free version of OpenOffice 3.2.1 and the 3.3 beta demonstrates its commitment to the open source suite and the community around it.

The company said in a statement about its Plugfest participation: "Oracle's ongoing support for OpenOffice.org reinforces its commitment to developing software based on open standards, providing IT users with flexibility, lower short and long-term costs and freedom from vendor lock-in."

The statement came after some of the biggest individual stakeholders in OpenOffice.org walked off the project to create the Document Foundation with their own fork of the OpenOffice code, called LibreOffice.

Novell, Red Hat, Canonical, the Open Source Initiative, the Free Software Foundation (FSF), and Google have all joined the Document Foundation and the LibreOffice fork.

Foundation members said it was time to turn OpenOffice into an independent, vendor-neutral organization — having been dominated by Sun Microsystems for nearly 10 years.

However, founding members also made it clear that there is growing frustration with Oracle. The giant was invited to join The Document Foundation but it failed to respond — believe me, Foundation founders, we in the press know that feeling.

Michael Meeks, a Novell distinguished engineer working on OpenOffice, said there had been impetus for independence from the beginning of OpenOffice.org, and members had hoped Oracle would have been more receptive to the idea.

Oracle's acquisition of Sun had made the timing of The Document Foundation "right."

Oracle is not only not participating in The Document Foundation but it's also keeping hold of the OpenOffice name, an asset it owns thanks to Sun's history.

When Oracle finally responded to the formation of The Document Foundation, it delivered a mixed message that supported the spirit of forking but also encouraged the OpenOffice community to continue to contribute through the OpenOffice.org site.

Oracle wished the new foundation "well", though: "The beauty of open source is that it can be forked by anyone who chooses, as was done today."

The LibreOffice project said it plans to merge useful changes from the main OpenOffice under the project's license. "We will review & merge whatever makes sense from Oracle's OpenOffice.org," Meeks told us.

The problem is that Oracle refuses to accept code changes for inclusion under their own project license unless they can avoid the terms of that license by owning the assigned code. OpenOffice is under the LGPLv3. ®

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