Open Source

Could Oracle fracture open source community?

Jack Wallen opens up his take on the Oracle/Google lawsuit. Is Oracle in the right or the wrong? Should they back down or not? Read on to find out what Jack thinks.

An Oracle was a person or agency considered to be a source of wise counsel or prophetic opinion. How can that particular definition be applied to Oracle the company? It can't. In fact I would claim that Oracle, the company, is quite the opposite of "wise" or "prophetic".

Why am I saying this? Unless you've had your head in the sand, you probably know that Oracle is suing Google over its use of Java in the Android operating system. Why are they doing this? If you puff away all the smoke and mirrors, the answer is simple: To get as much cash from Sun as they can. The problem that Oracle is facing is that Sun made Java open source in 2006. That was because then CEO, Johnathan Schwartz, was a big champion of open source and wanted to increase the exposure of Java. It was a smart move. Sun was also hoping to make a push for it's Solaris operating system for data centers...so they released an open source version of that as well.

Sun and Google spent much time in talks about the Java (and other issues). It was decided that no law suit would be necessary, but they never could come to a complete agreement as to what to do about the Java issue.

Then Oracle comes along, buys Sun, and now seams hell-bent on destroying that relationship between Sun and Google. With this "bull in a china shop" Oracle now in the mix, there are two glaring issues that I fear: (1) The repercussions that this will have on the Android OS and (2) how this will effect OpenOffice.

Both Android and OpenOffice are key tools for the current success of open source software...especially OpenOffice. Remember, OpenOffice is owned by Sun and uses the Sun Java platform. Although OpenOffice is not in the mix of this law suit, it could easily fall prey should Oracle win the lawsuit against Google. If Oracle wins, I fear they will gain a sense of entitlement toward all use of Java in the open source community. If Java were to be removed from OpenOffice, it would lose such functionalities as:

  • Embedded database engine
  • Base: Create Form Wizard
  • Writer: Letter Wizard, Fax Wizard, Agenda Wizard, HTML Wizard, SaveAs Palm/DocBook/PocketWord
  • Calc: SaveAs (Pocket Excel)
  • Extensions: Wiki Publisher, Report Builder
  • All: OOoBean, JavaScript Macros, Beanshell Macros

Although the basic functionality wouldn't be changed much, there would be a difference (especially for users who depend upon Wizards).

Should Oracle take down Java in OpenOffice, it would then start plowing its way through the rest of the open source community. Oracle would become the bully on the playground.

Although I have never been a big fan of Java (in fact, I almost always avoid any application that RELIES on Java to function) I do not want to see Oracle succeed in this law suit. Oracle purchased Sun, a company who owned both OpenOffice and MySQL. You can not deny the importance of both of those applications. They are crucial to the open source community. And now, they both are owned by a company who doesn't seem to get open source.

Oracle needs to back off on this law suit. This is an obvious grab for cash. If Android were not nearly as popular as it is right now, or if it were owned by a company other than Google, this law suit would not be happening.  Shame on your Oracle. Open your mind and try to wrap it around this train of thought:

  • Sun and Google had worked hard to develop a relationship NOT based on legal wars.
  • Android is becoming one of the most popular open source platforms.
  • If you win this law suit, you will set back Android and thus open source.
  • Half of the software titles you "own" are open source.
  • Do you really want to set YOURSELF back?

And besides, if you win this war, Google will find a way around the issue. They will fork Java or use a different technology. When Oracle purchased Sun it claimed that Java was one of the most important technologies it acquired from Sun. Really? Even though both MySQL and OpenOffice came along in the bargain? Did the only reason it was so important have anything to do with the fact it had a possible law suit attached to it?

Yeah...I'm thinking that is the thrust of this whole issue. Oracle once had a tight grasp on the world of the database, but they saw that grasp slowly wither and die over the years. Now they are showing their hands with a desperate grasp for cash after purchasing Sun simply so they could sue Google. I wouldn't be surprised if this was in the plans from the beginning.

But this plan could cause a serious rift in the open source community. It starts with Java and then it just trickles down as Oracle searches out other possible law suits to toss into the mix. The one issue that is certain to come out of this is that Oracle is making no friends in the open source community. The whole of the open source community shuddered when Oracle purchased Sun. Since the purchase of Sun, I have heard from so many readers that they fear what will happen to both OpenOffice and MySQL. And to be honest, I'm not sure I trust Oracle to treat both of these flagship open source applications with the care and respect they deserve.

Think about it. If Oracle destroys OpenOffice and MySQL, the Linux operating system would be left with, what, AbiWord? KOffice?, PostgreSQL? Although good in their own rights, none of these are the equal to OpenOffice or MySQL.

My hope is that this lawsuit does not succeed and Oracle backs down from their current attack mode. They are up against a giant (Google), which I am sure can fend for itself. But there are smaller companies (and individuals) out there who can't. I also hope the rest of the IT community see this for what it is - nothing more than a cash grab by a desperate company.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

59 comments
chrisw
chrisw

A win by Oracle is likely to weld the Open Source community into contributing the resources to replacing these Orable technologies with a truly Open alternative. It'll also drive many fence-sitters away from the Oracle beast.

dardo_breslin
dardo_breslin

Pienso que en la historia de TI hay varios ejemplos como ser el ahogo que sufrio Lotus e Informix por parte de IBM, VisualFox por parte de Microsoft, Clipper por parte de CA Computers, y as? en el tiempo... Creo Open Office y MySQL siguen el mismo camino. Este es de empresas que les importa poco o nada que haya usuarios de estos productos, los compran y los tiran al abandono porque conspiran con sus propios productos.

galoe.villaranm
galoe.villaranm

This move, by Oracle, could had been previewed. And the "Damocles Sword" is ALL?WAYS behind ?property? code. The Open Software COMMUNITY must achive it's own goals and don't rely on ?property? code. To walk in such direction would not be easy, but will keep independency.

thegreenwizard1
thegreenwizard1

At least for OpenOffice. So many students and schools use OpenOffice to save money. The only result would be that MS would make more money with MS Office. The full project of OpenOffice started around 10-15 years ago by a small German company who put on the market StarOffice, free for individual. Sun bough them and now Oracle want to cash on it. Send Oracle on the sideway. There are enough other competitive products out on the market. ex: SAP

jmbrasfield
jmbrasfield

"Now they are showing their hands with a desperate grasp for cash after purchasing Sun simply so they could sue Google. I wouldn?t be surprised if this was in the plans from the beginning." Amen. Corporate greed over corporate responsibility every time. Why make something new and inventive when you can sue your way to financial success. Its better for the top layers of management (and the lawyers) and much easier than thinking, something much lacked in the corporate world I have experienced today.

jonnix
jonnix

? now also "owned" by Oracle is significantly important to the Open Source Community too I'd say.

dgs010243
dgs010243

No ! Open Source is an emulation, a trend. It is sustained by millions of people. Oracle is a profit corporation only and nothing more ! Oracle is not more important than IBM. That's flat.

pinguone
pinguone

Just a very small point, but I think postgresql is better than mysql anyway. I wouldn't miss OpenOffice either, but that's just because I don't write documents or calcs much, and when I do, any old writer or spreadsheet is good enough for me. But I can definitely see lots of things going bad for a short time if OO dissappears - linux devs would need to rally around something else or create something new....not a small job!

Stovies
Stovies

I have answered NO to the question on Oracle destroying Open Office etc. The altruistic people who have developed Open Office are collectively brainier than Oracle's shit crew. They are trying to catch up with Microsoft in being the most miserable company ever, who have patented the 'abuse of customers' quality they developed. Open Source developers, get on your impeccable thinking caps and do the works on Oracle, whom I declared to now possess the name Horribacle (pronounced ?Horracle?) as their new corporate identity.

gmanon
gmanon

In my opinion, Java and MySQL will suffer badly and any other open source product from Oracle. Business will be skeptical to use any open source product under proprietary companies.

gmanon
gmanon

In my opinion, the open source community will suffer because Oracle will be hitting Java and any other open source products that they own like MySQL. Most business will be skeptical of those open source licensing under proprietary companies. If Google failed using their license, who will do it right?

breid104
breid104

Yes, and perhaps they should. I have used Open Office for many years as an alternative to proprietary solutions and it has served me well. I have recently moved to google docs, sheets, sites and mail, where I do most of my "office type" work. Perhaps Google will offer a g-base product that plays nice with the rest of google application suite and we won't need Oracle, MySQL or Open Office

spiceskull
spiceskull

In the short term, yes, it could cause harm, especially as OpenOffice is the key reason to depart from all things Microsoft (I think Java is a a red herring in this) However, Open Source will find new tools and models, with the help of Google, and this could actually be the biggest push for Open Source since Ubuntu. One thing is certain ... there will be a lot of holding of breath ... and then Oracle will lose out big time.

emenau
emenau

Open source is not free software, but free software is open source. Big difference and IF java would have been FREE (GNU, GPL) then what? Or?

dick.helander
dick.helander

the oracle, will try to make money, so the open source, as long as the openoffic are open source have to start to make one new openoffic with the base code.

Not2Nutz
Not2Nutz

It is time that Ellison be taught a lesson in economics. For a smart guy he sure is stupid.

bunke
bunke

Oracle will not kill OpenOffice or MySQL. We need to remeber Oracle #1 enemy is Microsoft. They may want to be IBM but its Microsoft that keep them up at night. Since OO can hurt Microsoft wherer it counts MS Office(Cash Cow)they will not hurt it. They same goes for MySQL. They are well aware that most MySql for Windows users would immediatly go to MS SQL not to Oracle. This lawsuit is mostly "Smoke and Mirrors" to keep attension off the hugh loss of money Sun Hardware is becoming and Oracle's purchase not stopping the mass exodus of Solaris customers to Linux and AIX.

Bill Day
Bill Day

Mr. Wallen asks about alternatives with a note of skepticism. But maybe this is just the wakeup call the Community needs to rally around Abiword, Gnumeric, and Postgresql.

Jaqui
Jaqui

Since the lawsuit was filed and made public knowledge, Android powered devices have multiplied in the number of different devices on the market. I would bet there was as jump in sales of Android powered devices also. Open Office could be rewritten to use perl or python to replace it's Java requirement. MySQL, well gee we have the scources, under an open source license, we can easily start a fork and get the Open Source Community to support it. Same also for Open Office.

Justin James
Justin James

Jack - While I agree 100% with your overall feelings (I can't stand Oracle and never have), you've got a major hole in your analysis, which is that you have a completely incorrect understanding of the lawsuit in question. The lawsuit isn't about whether or not Google is allowed to use Java in Android. It is about their Java environment itself, Dalvik. Oracle's contention is that Google write Dalvik with the help of a bunch of Sun engineers that they hired away, and as a result, Dalvik uses techniques that are patented by Oracle (as a result of the Sun acquisition). The main thing to understand here, is that your hysteria is completely unwarranted. Even if Oracle wins, this will not affect OpenOffice or any other technology that relies upon Java, it will merely force Google to either license those patents from Oracle, rewrite Dalvik, or to just use the standard Sun JVM. That being said, Oracle is still a scummy company and would love to do the things you accuse them of. But you need to get the facts straight before you write an article like this. J.Ja

seanferd
seanferd

it would seem that it is following the usual paradigm: Growth by acquisition, eliminate competition, balkanize the acquisition, kill or sell what it does not want, lock up the rest, then go on a license/patent troll safari.

apotheon
apotheon

Traduzca al inglés, por favor. Excuse mi español pobre. edit: typo

apotheon
apotheon

Open source developers mostly aren't that altruistic. They have personal, often selfish reasons for contributing to open source projects. Otherwise, I don't really see much in your comment that I find disagreeable (in spirit, at least).

apotheon
apotheon

Why hasn't someone with an interest in an Access-like application just written a database management interface tool that defaults to SQLite on the back end? It'd have a leg up on the competition, being less tied to some broken-ass office suite like MS Office or OpenOffice.org, and based on a database engine technically superior to MS Jet (the back end for Access). It seems like a fairly easy thing to accomplish, especially when compared to the blood, sweat, and tears that must have gone into OO.o Base. If I gave a crap about that category of software, I might see about tackling the task myself.

ultimitloozer
ultimitloozer

...is not necessarily open source. Many companies offer free software (be it time- or use-restricted trials, crippleware, and sometimes unrestricted, full-function) but they still hold all copyrights to their proprietary software. I have developed a couple of programs that I have freely given away in the past (before open source became an item), but the source code has never gone with it and I still retain all copyrights to it.

apotheon
apotheon

Java is mostly licensed under the terms of the GPL. Do you know anything about this topic?

apotheon
apotheon

I vote with my feet a lot. I did so when I moved out of California, for instance. I have been "boycotting" Oracle for a long time, in large part because nothing Oracle offered was of much use to me or my clients. Competing offerings were always better suited to our needs. Unfortunately, until I wean myself off some software that I loathe but am currently using for historical (hysterical?) reasons, I'll find it difficult to completely give up MySQL. I was planning on doing so anyway, but Oracle's acquisition of MySQL probably guarantees more reason for me to do so. Maybe this whole disaster will prompt some people in the open source community to produce something as an alternative to a Java-infested OpenOffice.org. Dare to dream.

gbnewell
gbnewell

This is a chance for Oracle to overcome its 400 pound gorilla reputation in the community in one heroic move. Java is the lynch-pin for all things embedded, as well as the largest enterprise scaled data resourse management programming environment available today. OpenOffice is the only end user productivity platform for the Unix / Linux based communities, and provides Windows users with a viable alternative to Microsoft's Office Suite. MySQL has the largest site implementation proliferation in the world to date, including the vast majority of Internet Host Sites: Windows-Apache-MySQL-PHP(Perl)(Python) [W-A-M-P] ...and Linux-Apache-MySQL-PHP(Perl)(Python) [L-A-M-P]. These three vast IT communites can be garnered as ideal accounts for porting Oracle's industrial strength Applicaion System Packages to the largest potential IT customer base on the planet. From a marketing strategy perspective, Oracle has every reason to support OpenSource licenses as "OpenSource"; deliver new and existing Applications to the Cloud(s); --and continue Sun Microsystem's commitment to advaning Internet Architecture.

apotheon
apotheon

Oracle will not kill OpenOffice or MySQL. We need to remeber Oracle #1 enemy is Microsoft. On the other hand, it very well might kill its open source support for OO.o and MySQL. This lawsuit is mostly "Smoke and Mirrors" to keep attension off the hugh loss of money Sun Hardware is becoming and Oracle's purchase not stopping the mass exodus of Solaris customers to Linux and AIX. While that's a possible motivating factor, I don't think it's likely the biggest factor in the decision to proceed with this lawsuit. It would be more likely, I think, for Oracle to have taken up this lawsuit to sow fear, uncertainty, and doubt amongst open source community developers that might consider forking or otherwise duplicating the efforts of Oracle's new acquisitions. As for Solaris . . . I think Oracle has other plans for it, likely including turning it into the flagship platform for "enterprise" deployments of its database offerings. Now, if only Oracle can get its database offerings to play nice with ZFS, the company could be on its way to snatching a lot of platform business away from Microsoft.

xaKira
xaKira

I already use AbiWord and just tried Gnumeric and already like it more than OpenOffice's spreadsheet. I love that there is an an open alternative to M$ Office suite, but why are people still using suites in 2010? Suites are sooooo bloated it's tragic. AbiWord loads so fast and its easy to use and Gnumeric loads lightning fast and looks easier to use than OO speadsheet. Word and it's OO counterpart are way too big and complicated for a day to day word processor and they full short of being a proper desktop publishing program? They exist because M$ want you to keep buying their "junk" and therefore keep bloating and making cosmetic changes to it so people think they are getting something "Latest and Greatest". Do yourselves and your computer a favour and try out these small, fast and easy programs - Abi Word and Gnumeric. As for MySQL, I am a developer and use MySQL but would have no trouble changing to Postgre if it comes to it. This is a dumb article as Open Source can not be fractured, it thrives through having alternative products. If one programs is not useful, dies or is killed another more suited will take it's place.

apotheon
apotheon

OpenOffice.org: I don't think Perl or Python would really be the ideal choices as a replacement of Java in OpenOffice.org. For the places where OO.o uses Java, it uses it for facilities at the opposite end of Java's capabilities from its overlap with Perl and Python, as far as I've been able to determine. What's needed to suit those purposes is probably a heavily object-oriented language with very GUI-focused capabilities. . . . but your core point is correct -- the relevant parts of the application could just be rewritten. As pointed out elsewhere in this discussion, though, the excuse for this lawsuit is patent infringement for writing a noncompatible reimplementation of Java, and not using the Oracle/Sun implementation of Java itself. Since OpenOffice.org is developed using the Oracle/Sun implementation of Java, it should be safe (at least from this kind of lawsuit), even if Oracle kills corporate support for the open source project and it gets forked. MySQL: Why bother forking MySQL? I'm rather surprised to find Jack so dismissive of PostgreSQL. He's right that PostgreSQL is not the equal of MySQL, but he's wrong about why. PostgreSQL is MySQL's superior in basically every way, especially given the clustering capabilities introduced in new PostgreSQL releases -- except in terms of installed base at the lower technical end of the spectrum, where people use whatever's available rather than whatever's best suited to their needs.

ScarF
ScarF

Thanks for bringing some real data in this article's hysteria.

jlwallen
jlwallen

Over the last decade Trek (the bicycle company) purchased the following companies: Bontrager Gary Fisher Lamonde Klein They purchased Bontrager so they can have their own in-house components. But then soon after they purchased the above companies they killed Lamonde. Next they killed Klein. Finally the "killed" Gary Fisher by saying they were going to add a "Gary Fisher" line of bikes to the Trek name. They purchased all of these companies because they were competition, with the intent of killing them. What they did was destroy some of the best remaining American bicycles made. The bicycle world was left with a whole when Trek killed Klein. This same thing could happen if Oracle does the same thing.

mdtallon
mdtallon

I agree (that true altruism in general rarely exists in this world), however, forgoing "greed" is good enough for me. A lot of people don't realize how difficult an issue this can become for a (public) corporation when they are bound by law to conduct themselves in a manner that best suits shareholder's interests. This pretty much translates into maximizing profits at all times.

apotheon
apotheon

Keep in mind that some people recognize a difference between Free Software (a term of propaganda for the GNU project and Free Software Foundation) and free software. One refers to software that, in their view, has been freed from the shackles of . . . whatever, and the other to a mere lack of cost for a use license. Also . . . a lot of Free Software depends on copyright, so your mention that "they still hold all copyrights to their proprietary software" doesn't mean as much as you might think. Copyrights are still active for all copyleft "Free Software", too, because copyleft policy cannot exist in its current form without copyright to enforce it.

Jaqui
Jaqui

Sun's jvm/jre/j2ee isn't and that is the reason Java is and always will be proprietary. until there is no proprietary environment for it, the language is neither open source nor free software

zclayton2
zclayton2

What I don't understand is how something released as open source can now be "closed sourced"? once you give away its gone isn't it?

Jaqui
Jaqui

Postgresql has long been seen as more enterprise grade than MySQL, rightfully so when you consider it's design is more security focused. MySQL has long been seen as the faster engine of the two. Incorrectly so. [ somewhere here on TR I posted about this a few years back. ] using the same data set and running a series of queries against both engines on it. The time difference between the two for a million record data set query was .01 seconds. I've not believed that there is any major difference in performance between them for a long time now. :D The only reason to fork MySQL is the popularity of it as a website script engine, where the majority if scripts work with MySQL but not so much PostgreSQL

cbader
cbader

And thank you Justin for bringing a bit of level headedness to most of Jacks posts and counter acting his FUD that he seems to spew. I actually thought about unsubscribing from this newsletter but your replies have kept me here lol.

apotheon
apotheon

It's a common problem in corporate America. Someone close to me works for a company that was just bought by its main competitor last month -- a larger corporation that actually had a much smaller share of this particular market. Much the same thing appears poised to happen to the purchased company and its offerings in the next couple years. A lot of customers who specifically chose the smaller company for its better service than the larger corporation's offering are going to be bitterly disappointed.

apotheon
apotheon

Actually, at that point we'll just move more toward a service economy, I think. A fabber (aka 3D Printer aka Personal Fabricator aka Nanofactory aka probably half a dozen or so other things) can't make creativity and expertise for you.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

In a Science TV Show I saw this week but would be better known to Star Trek Fans as Replicators will be part of the cure. When everyone has a Personal Fabricator the need for money will have vanished. When we can control things at the Atomic Level there will be no need for anything as the value of things like gold will have disappeared. Want some Money just Replicate it. Want Anything just Replicate/Fabricate it. Of course then the money will be in buying the templates to allow the PF to make these things I suppose. :D Col

apotheon
apotheon

The stock market is part of the problem. As long as there are publicly traded corporations, some kind of stock market will arise where people trade stocks around like Pokemon cards trying to make a fast buck. The people trying to make a fast buck become the people to whom the corporations cater. The corporations look better in the stock market when they can get a surge of new investors, increasing the stock price. To get those surges, the corporation has to do short-term thinking; people trying to make a fast buck only want to invest long enough to make some money, then move on, so short-term profits are much more appealing to them than long-term stability. Eliminate the legal framework for publicly traded corporations, and you eliminate much of that problem.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

No that's just the way that things have been perverted these days under the [b]Greed is Good mentality that is accepted.[/b] Not that long ago it was considered as great if any place made a Record Profit but these days where Corporate Responsibility have been so perverted to mean make as much money as possible I watched as a Finical Adviser justified the Banks increasing the Interest Rates away from the Reserve Bank because the Home Loans Section where not making enough money. Didn't matter that that bank had just announced a Record Profit and was higher than ever previously the Stock Market was looking for ways to make even more money. They get exactly what they deserve but unfortunately it's going to be the rest of us who suffer when the entire system crashed as being unsustainable. Many years ago we made a Acceptable Profit and acted Responsibly now the idea is to make as much as possible and screw everyone else. Only problem in making as much money as possible eventually it is what hurts the Investors who you are making the money for. Instead of looking tot he next profit reporting season if we took the Long Term View very little of what is considered as acceptable/good today would be tolerated. But the Stock Exchange has to inflict the Pain so that people learn how they should behave. It works great except that they forget and have to continually go through the lesson to figure out that it's not good this week. Of course the same thing is repeated again next week because they forget. :D Col

apotheon
apotheon

Most of the VM/runtime code is open source. There are a few source files that are not, and this makes it effectively impossible to install the VM/runtime without having to agree to some asinine proprietary license. This is, of course, possible even with the GPL because Sun held the copyrights to all of the Java VM/runtime code, aside from the specific parts that it claimed it couldn't release under the GPL due to the fact it didn't hold the copyrights -- and now Oracle holds the bulk of the Java copyrights. Still . . . the majority of it is GPLed. That's a fact. Sun's promise to replace the closed source parts (with the help of the open source developer community) was not fulfilled by the time Oracle acquired Sun, and I think that project's probably dead in the water now.

apotheon
apotheon

The Solaris name and the MySQL name are "owned" by Oracle now. Since the core development project for each was at Sun, the core development project for each is now at Oracle. Oracle can close up that project and make it purely corporate and closed source, and what is then distributed under the name Solaris and under the name MySQL will be closed source software. Oracle can do this because, through its acquisition of Sun, it acquired the copyrights for the source of both projects. The source code of both those projects that had been released under an open source license is perpetually open source, as long as the open source codebases are never lost (e.g., all copies of the source are destroyed because of a world-wide electromagnetic pulse). The new code being committed to each of the core projects maintained at Oracle will be closed source, though, and that combined with any source preceding it can then be distributed under any legal terms Oracle chooses. The already open source code can be turned into competing projects, using code that does not come from Oracle for continuing development, but they must do so under another name, since the names "Solaris" and "MySQL" are "owned" by Oracle. These competing projects would be what we call forks. So . . . MySQL (by name) can become closed source, but the open source code from before that change in policy cannot become closed source.

apotheon
apotheon

This is why SQLite should not be used for everything. If you want something that doesn't have the drawbacks of a flat file database, use PostgreSQL instead.

Jaqui
Jaqui

being a "flat file" db system it violates many hosting service provider's restrictions. the flat file db is processor intensive is the reason given.

apotheon
apotheon

Let the idiots who standardized on only MySQL sweat bullets over this Oracle debacle, and rewrite their Web applications to use a proper database instead. That or, in some cases, switch to SQLite. A lot of those things don't need anything heavier than SQLite, anyway.

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