Oracle drops OpenOffice on Apache, shuns forkers
LibreOffice re-unification rejected
Oracle is shunting OpenOffice onto the Apache Software Foundation, sidelining the original OpenOffice community that forked off the project as LibreOffice last year.
On Wednesday, Oracle said that its contribution demonstrates Oracle's commitment to the developer and open source communities. "Donating OpenOffice.org to Apache gives this popular consumer software a mature, open, and well established infrastructure to continue well into the future," the vice president of Oracle's corporate architecture group, Luke Kowalski, said in a statement. And the move was immediately welcomed by both Apache and IBM, one of OpenOffice's biggest beneficiaries through its use of Open Document Format (ODF).
But the move cuts off the coders who, in September 2010, unhappy with Oracle's treatment of the project, created LibreOffice under the aegis of The Document Foundation. At the time, Novell, Red Hat, Canonical, the Open Source Initiative, the Free Software Foundation (FSF), and Google backed LibreOffice and The Foundation.
Further, as Oracle was congratulating itself for being a good friend to developers and open source projects, The Document Foundation told The Register that in moving OpenOffice to Apache, Oracle rejected the Foundation's advice on the future of OpenOffice.
The Document Foundation tells us that Oracle approached the group for suggestions on OpenOffice, which it duly offered. Namely, the Foundation said that Oracle should put OpenOffice code under a Mozilla Public License/Lesser General Public License version 3 dual license and transfer the OpenOffice domain and trademark to the Foundation.
Instead, Oracle moved the code to the venerable Apache, father to such projects as the Apache Server, and it seems that Oracle will retain the OpenOffice trademark. Oracle's announcement only discussed the code.
Fork you for forking
LibreOffice is a fork of OpenOffice formed by core OpenOffice community members. They created the project – and The Document Foundation – out of their frustration with Oracle's unwillingness to relinquish control of the project, which the database giant inherited as part of its purchase of Sun Microsystems.
OpenOffice joins Apache as an incubator project. It must mature and prove its viability and sustainability before graduating to full project status. The code will be licensed under the Apache Software License. Previously, OpenOffice code has been licensed under the GPL, LGPLv3 and MPL.
The GPL, LGPL, and MPL are copyleft licenses, meaning that if you modify and reuse code in certain situations, you must give it back to the community. But Apache is non-copy-left, meaning you can modify and reuse code without giving back.
The millions Oracle doesn't own
While the GPL and LGPL are compatible with Apache's license, the ASF won't accept any code that's not under an ASF license. That means all copyleft licensed code must be re-licensed before they can be accepted by Apache.
Oracle owns the rights to about 6 million lines of code licensed under the LGPL. Oracle has the right to move this code to Apache, but it doesn't own the rights to the LibreOffice work, which is under LGPL and MPL. The rights to this code are owned by the individuals working on LibreOffice. What code are we talking precisely? The spell checker, all crypto support, and many file filters, among other features.
Meanwhile, all those OpenOffice defectors who jumped to The Document Foundation must now decide whether they can stomach working with a license they philosophically disagree with.
While tipping its hat to Apache, The Document Foundation said in a statement that moving OpenOffice to the ASF represented a missed opportunity.
"The Document Foundation would welcome the reuniting of the OpenOffice.org and LibreOffice communities into a single community of equals in the wake of the departure of Oracle. The step Oracle has taken today was no doubt taken in good faith, but does not appear to directly achieve this goal," the group said.
"We regret the missed opportunity but are committed to working with all remaining community members to devise the best possible future for LibreOffice and OpenOffice.org."
The Document Foundation said it's willing to start talking with Apache and welcomed an email from group president Jim Jagielski, who is "anticipating frequent contacts between the Apache Software Foundation and The Document Foundation over the next few months."
IBM and Oracle drive open source?
Oracle choice is an fascinating one. Relations between Oracle and the ASF could not have been worse.
Oracle has subpoenaed ASF as part of its lawsuit against Google over claimed Java patent and copyright violations by Google's Android mobile operating system. Android makes use of a subset of ASF's Project Harmony. Oracle is looking for evidence that ASF and Google deliberately and knowingly looked for ways to rip off Java, so it has demanded all communications between the pair for its legal team to comb through. Oracle also blocked Harmony from getting a Java license, a move that saw ASF officially walk out of the Java Community Process.
Meanwhile, IBM is emerging as Oracle's go-to power partner on open source and Java. This is creating an inescapable sense that the duo are turning open-source projects into corporate incubators they can either ordain or sideline to suit their objectives.
Last year, IBM walked out of Project Harmony and joined the rival OpenJDK from Oracle. IBM had been Harmony's biggest single backer, joining the project back in the mid 2000s.
As when it walked out of Harmony, IBM justified its support for Oracle's OpenOffice play on the grounds of pragmatism. This time, the reasoning is that it secures the future of ODF, the open, XML-based specification for documents that IBM has invested so much time in. It allows IBM to avoid dependence on Microsoft's Office XML document formats and Office itsself. IBM's Lotus Symphony – the no-charge, on premise, office productivity suite – is based on ODF.
Clearly, IBM is happy see ODF land with Apache, group that has a long-established history of bedding down successful open-source projects. The Document Foundation was still finding its legs, and it was notable that while Red Hat, Google and the others backed the group, IBM - a fellow OpenOfficer - kept quiet.
In an official statement, IBM said that moving putting OpenOffice to ASF: "Strengthens IBM's ability to continue to offer our own distributions based on the OpenOffice code base and make our own contributions to reinforce the overall community." You can read more justification here. ®