Open Source

OpenOffice finally forked from Oracle's clutches

The black plague known as Oracle can no longer kill OpenOffice thanks to the Document Foundation's OpenOffice offshoot, Libre Office. Read all about it and respond with your thoughts.

It was only a matter of time. After Oracle purchased Sun, a good portion of the open source community knew that Oracle would ruin MySQL and let OpenOffice collect dust. After all, whoever said Oracle really cared about the open source community? Oracle only cares about making money and, to be quite honest, is just not very good at it. So the purchase of Sun by Oracle (after a deal between IBM and Sun fell through) looked like nothing more than a grab for Java. With this purchase Oracle thought they would become some Behemoth in the server industry. When the purchase happened, the Oracle CEO Larry Ellison said:

“Oracle will be the only company that can engineer an integrated system – applications to disk – where all the pieces fit and work together so customers do not have to do it themselves. Our customers benefit as their systems integration costs go down while system performance, reliability and security go up.”

How'd that work out for your Oracle?

The problem Oracle faced was that their precious database had lost favor in the IT world over the open source rival MySQL. So naturally Oracle wanted to get rid of the competition by buying Sun - which had recently taken over MySQL. But along with MySQL, Sun also held OpenOffice in their portfolio. It is my impression that Oracle had no intention of pressing OpenOffice forward. This is a big issue because, even though OpenOffice had been evolving quite nicely, it still has had a horrible time gaining any traction in the enterprise. To make this worse, there was also threat that Oracle could easily stop funding OpenOffice and instead funnel those funds to products it felt would bring them a better bottom line. Oracle simply has a way of turning everything it touches to mud.

Fortunately a group was quickly (and quietly) formed called The Document Foundation with the sole purpose of building on the foundation created by the OpenOffice.org community and continuing the evolution of this flagship, open source office suite. This new "fork" of OpenOffice is called Libre Office and promises to pick up where OpenOffice 3 left off.

As soon as I heard about the creation of this new fork of OpenOffice, I immediately downloaded the beta and began using it in all of my production work. I knew this fork was based on recent builds so it would be a solid product out of the gate. Both article and novel writing has been handled with the usual grace found in OpenOffice. It works and it works well.

But what exactly does this mean for the open source community? My personal take on this situation is this: Libre Office is the best thing that could have happened to OpenOffice. Why? The development of OpenOffice had begun to stagnate once 3.0 was released. With Libre Office unfettered by the bonds of either Sun or Oracle, the office suite will develop faster and will be more in tune with what the users want and need.

One thing I would really like to see is Java being removed from OpenOffice. I really have no idea what would replace Java, but surely the open source community can either integrate an already created product or create a new replacement for the slow, bloated java.

Although many might argue that OpenOffice will miss any corporate funding or input, it is my belief that, like so many other open source projects, Libre Office will flourish under the careful development of the community best suited to develop open source software.

I would like to ask Oracle to keep their contracts and their lawyers far, far away from open source software. You are a pox upon open source and you have no business where you do not belong (and are not wanted). You have brought about an uprising in the open source community because of MySQL and now you give the finger to OpenOffice. This time, however, the open source community is giving you the finger by forking OpenOffice. So now you can place the office suite on a shelf and let it gather as much dust as you want.

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.

68 comments
dpresley_50201
dpresley_50201

I wonder if the purchase of Sun was also motivated by obtaining VirtualBox? As more and more machines go "virtual", wouldn't it be prudent for Oracle to have a virtual machine solution of its own to sell to its corporate customers to stay competitive?

sonicsteve
sonicsteve

I haven't seen (or skipped over :) ) what the developer situation is at Oracle. If too many developers were lost to the Libre office fork I doubt oracle will find many to replace them. Does anyone know how many developers are in each camp currently?

dpresley_50201
dpresley_50201

I don't see why this change couldn't happen. I would prefer Python since it's robust, cross platform, and Python apps generally run faster than Java apps IMO. If Oracle wants to let OOo stagnate, then the corp. should cut it loose and let the FOSS community develop it further to keep the suite competitive at least for personal use. I wonder if IBM's Lotus Symphony, based on OOo, will also continue to evolve the the OpenOffice foundation? I think by now that OOo in all of its versions/dialects is simply too popular and widespread to be completely killed off by the bumblings of one corporation albeit a very large one.

RobD60
RobD60

So...what about IBM Lotus Symphony? Doesn't that count as a fork? I've been using Symphony 3 b.2 on Ubuntu and Symphony 3 b.4 on Vista, and I much prefer its UI to OOo.

fred64
fred64

Sounds like 3 choices now... Libre Office, go-oo.org, OxygenOffice. Although any alternatives seem better than Oracle, it would be nice if the 3 could figure out how to play together in this new non-Oracle world. Seems to me they could combine their efforts and accomplish more. Oxygen pretty much adds content on to the existing oo base. Go-oo adds new capability and fixes, Libre plans to support the core? Seems somewhat complimentary to me. Why not work together? Combine resources and ideas? After all, the frustration points within Oracle that spawned them should no longer exist.

e_caroline
e_caroline

It sounds like good news that Open Office is out of corporate clutches. In the world of "real world" word processing a lot of the "improvements and features" that developers dream up for the sake of "more and better" tend to be just bloat that precious few real world users actually need. MS Office is an example of that.... no end of features that almost no one uses nor really needs much. And so the new incarnation of Open Office ought not be all that super-duper of a headache for a modest supply of developers to keep alive. Might even be a "marketing blessing" to have a new name for it.. so the gullibles who equate new with better have an excuse to try it out. My first experience of "Open Office" was its predecessor Star Office.. when still a freebee open source product.

Jaqui
Jaqui

git. they using git for version control though at least they are smart enough to make a source tarball available, unlike most git repo based projects.

jimmeq
jimmeq

I am not a businessman and don't play one on TV. It would however, make sense that Oracle promote ooo as an alternative to mso. ooo 3.x is finally enterprise ready, so it could be used to their advantage to compete with ms. With the Oracle name stamped on ooo, it might gain some inroads.

quique67
quique67

It seems to be a Pan European effort... Besides a brazilian It is a European Effort... USA is lagging for the last years... and lagging more and more

Justin James
Justin James

... you make so many errors in actual facts that it hurts your message. "Oracle only cares about making money and, to be quite honest, is just not very good at it." Funny, because Oracle makes MASSIVE amounts of money. Look at all of the acquisitions they do. The cash is coming from somewhere. Oracle is great at making money. The problem is, the way Oracle makes their money is fairly disgusting and exploitive of their customer base. "The problem Oracle faced was that their precious database had lost favor in the IT world over the open source rival MySQL." This is not true in the slightest, unfortunately. Too many mission critical applications run on Oracle to say that it lost to MySQL. What *did* happen over the last 10 years, is that Oracle is no longer the only game in town, and that the small potato applications and customers moved to MySQL and Microsoft SQL Server. But if you are a bank, insurance company, airline, government, etc., MySQL is *no substitute* for Oracle (although PostgreSQL *is* and I would appreciate it if you'd get off your MySQL soapbox and get on the PostgreSQL soapbox) at a technical level. Period. It pains me to say it, but if you need ultra performance and reliability, Oracle is your go-to option. So Oracle's differentiator is speed and reliability, and that's why they can charge thousands per CPU core (or socket, I forget their exact licensing) while MySQL is free. Or to put it another way... MySQL and Oracle are not competing for the same customers, and as soon as MySQL got traction, Oracle knew they couldn't compete without slashing their margins and just walked away from small apps. "... I immediately downloaded the beta and began using it in all of my production work." Beta's shouldn't be used in "production work". ;) "One thing I would really like to see is Java being removed from OpenOffice." If you look at the OO site, its usage of Java is fairly minimal, and in sections that generally won't impact performance. Everyone loves to blame OO's speed issues on Java, but the reality is, it's just poorly written code. Java is plenty fast (10% speed gap *at most*), the issue is the code. Personally, I'm not a fan of working with Java, but at the same time, I can be honest about the facts around it. J.Ja

kpthottam
kpthottam

By 2015 a totally non oracle open source 'java' like language will emerge. Given Oracle's ways I can see this happening sooner rather than later.

jmbrasfield
jmbrasfield

"You are a pox upon open source and you have no business where you do not belong and are not wanted." Amen As a long time user of OpenOffice at home and work, I was dismayed by Oracles take over of Sun and the open source products contained within. I am sure that it will be the death of them all. Best of luck to those that will now pick up the open source ball and run with it. I will be installing Libre Office as soon as I can.

kitico
kitico

I'm sorry, but you need a proof reader. You did get your message across, but the text looks as if you composed this piece when you were really tired and not fully awake.

Justin James
Justin James

1) VB was already open source, so Oracle could have built on it. 2) Oracle already had a VM solution of their own. I don't know the details of it though, but I know they had one. J.Ja

seanferd
seanferd

It isn't a new fork, though, and it is developed on top of OO by IBM, not a community. It actually seems like a distro with added features more than a fork of the base.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

If I read correctly, LOo is actually using GOo as the starting point code base. It's basically the exiled developers from Oracle joining The Document Foundation along with it's bigger named sponsors with the codebase adopted from GOo to get things started. I guess confirmation will be if GOo continues commits or if that development effort also joins into TDF.

Jaqui
Jaqui

a "source tarball" that contains ZERO source code files.

pgit
pgit

"... I immediately downloaded the beta and began using it in all of my production work." Beta's shouldn't be used in "production work". wink They took the latest ooo3 verbatim. It's currently (or was on "day one") the same code as ooo3. Nothing beta about it. Also nothing (much) different either, just the 'branding' as someone pointed out. (icons etc) But indeed this is one fork in the 'good news' department. Between libre and go-oo they've just about effectively doubled the effort going into the base.

tommy higbee
tommy higbee

> But if you are a bank, insurance company, airline, government, etc., MySQL is *no substitute* for Oracle (although PostgreSQL *is* and I would appreciate it if you'd get off your MySQL soapbox and get on the PostgreSQL soapbox) at a technical level. Exactly. Most people dismissing Oracle for MySQL just don't understand what Oracle provides. Postgresql, on the other hand, is a great database system that just keeps getting better. There's even a software company that makes a living by adding "syntax sugar" and the like to use Postgresql as a drop-in replacement to Oracle. However, there are certainly a lot of applications out there where MySQL is perfectly fine as a database, even though there are many applications where it is no substitute.

rrdepew
rrdepew

I recently completed a Java project, using the Web extensively as a reference tool. I was dismayed at all the pages my search engine had collected, that now display, instead of a helpful discussion on a Java topic, a 404 message saying something like "Oracle is currently rethinking their Java support strategy." They might as well have said, "Oracle has removed this page in an effort to squash the Java community and save ourselves a lot of extra work supporting something we didn't want in the first place."

terry.floyd
terry.floyd

I agree with you to some extent. The article states that Oracle is only interested in making money, but isn't very good at it. If Larry Ellison wasn't any good at making money, he wouldn't be a billionnaire and Oracle would be in the same position as Sun Microsystems and all the other companies they've absorbed over the years. I'm not a big fan of Oracle or their products, but you can't honestly say they don't know how to turn a profit.

john3347
john3347

Many publishers are either eliminating or reducing their proof reader staff to cut costs. This does result in many excellent reporters and experts on various subjects publishing poor spelling, sentence structure, grammar, etc, that does make their publication LOOK less professional. This is just a sign of the times, hopefully it will be corrected in time to come. English composition is a proof reader's forte, not the reporters. Give the "reporters" a break and admonish their publishers of the need for proof reading departments.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

This public service announcement brought to you by the Department for Redundancy Department. (It probably also reflects on the complaint about proof reading but I'm really not the authority on that topic.)

jlwallen
jlwallen

I don't know if I was just really angry about this or writing in my sleep, but I really had some issues there. I fixed them. Thanks for bringing this to my attention. ;-)

rgoeken1
rgoeken1

But, did you understand what was being said? If the only comment is "proof reading", one wonders... Remember, communications at it's best is a hazardous process.

dpresley_50201
dpresley_50201

I still don't believe the acquisition of Sun by Oracle was simply just to get Java. Sun owned a few other products that Oracle could customize and add to its offerings as "total solutions" to customers' needs. If it was, then Java has to be the most expensive programming language ever.

JuliaX111
JuliaX111

But mysql was gpl'd too.. so theres nothing preventing a fork of that either. I reckon grabbing that source code now before it vanishes into the void would be a great idea.

jlwallen
jlwallen

in order to install LibreOffice on Ubuntu 10.04 i had to create the debs from the rpms using Alien. worked like a charm...but really...how hard is it for them to create rpms, debs, and include source?

fred64
fred64

Sounds like 3 choices now... Libre Office, go-oo.org, OxygenOffice. Although any alternatives seem better than Oracle, it would be nice if the 3 could figure out how to play together in this new non-Oracle world. Seems to me they could combine their efforts and accomplish more. Oxygen pretty much adds content on to the existing oo base. Go-oo adds new capability and fixes, Libre plans to support the core? Seems somewhat complimentary to me. Why not work together? Combine resources and ideas? After all, the frustration points within Oracle that spawned them should no longer exist.

Justin James
Justin James

"Between libre and go-oo they've just about effectively doubled the effort going into the base." Forks often (not always) split the existing development base. Sometimes each development base grows on its own (look at the "Big Three BSDs for a good example), sometimes one or both wither and die. That's the risk with forks in the mind of the end user, you don't know if the fork you picked will survive. In the case of OpenOffice, it's not that big of a deal unless the forks do wacky things with the file formats and handle them differently. With a project like a database, OS, mail server, etc., forks are extraordinarily dangerous to the users and often drive them to find alternatives. This was the reason why Linux beat BSD. When Linux came out, BSD was in the middle of forking, and people would rather deal with the pain of moving to Linux (even though it was less mature than BSD at the time) than deal with the risk of choosing the wrong fork. J.Ja

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

With MySQL, I get user/group/host combinations. I can say a specific user or group can access a database only from a specific host (eg. localhost). With Postgresql, I don't see that may access layout. I can specify a user who owns a database and users who access without ownership. I can't seem to easily specify a host the user is permitted to access data from. Granted, I'm not really going any deeper than Webmin management applets so maybe Postgresql has the function though it's not shown in my browser interface.

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

...but illiterate, as well. No offense intended.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

The reporters really aren't a proof reader's forte... not usually at least :p

Realvdude
Realvdude

Taking constructive criticism speaks volumes about someone's character. I think you generally have a higher level of passion for the things you write about, and corporate muddling in "their" opensource projects can certainly stir passion.

rrdepew
rrdepew

And I'm glad you kept the "You are a pox" line.

rrdepew
rrdepew

No, kitico's right. I always enjoy reading Mr. Wallen's columns, and the content of this one is really important, but it reads like it was thrown together in a hurry and the first draft was sent to the, um, printer. If you don't think that language matters in technical writing, then try reading one of Myke Predko's books. (Then compare Predko's writings to the polished prose of Horowitz and Hill, or one of the IEEE journals.)

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I believe it was the original developer who forked MySQL back when Sun first took over. The fork remains a compatible replacement. Mind you, with most everything also being PostgreSQL compatible the migration may actually be toward a better database engine.

Jaqui
Jaqui

that's for sure. but since git is never installed on my systems and they use git, they have chosen to NOT have my help. git is to badly designed to be used.

K_Green
K_Green

Perhaps spinning up an entire foundation to rescue a large project takes lots of effort? Perhaps things can get missed in the rush? Perhaps it is better to get off the ground and fill in the gaps after-the-fact? Perhaps they could use your help, since you've observed some of those gaps?

Jaqui
Jaqui

is the responsibility of the LSB team, they [ like idiots ] named rpm in the specification. [ only as an example of what info is needed for package manager headers, the provides, requires etc for dependency resolution and to see what files are being installed, where. this means lots of idiots think rpm is the only package manger that is allowed for lsb compliance edit to add: the LSB is badly done anyway, a BASE standard for the GNU/Linux system needs to be hardware agnostic [ the lsb isn't yet the os is ] as well as it needed to stop at the MINIMUM required to have a functioning system. They took it to be a complete DISTRO specification.

Jaqui
Jaqui

the build from sources REQUIRES internet access and git, it does a git checkout of the sources. sorry, but the double data transfer consumption of a repo checkout is NOT wanted. sorry, but a system being built with zero internet access and only from sources means the build system is fatally flawed.

jkiernan
jkiernan

Go-oo is funded by Novell, so while it's a worthy piece of software, there is still the matter of a corporate puppet-master serving its own interests. Worse still, Novell's steady decline in stature and relevance can't be good for Go-oo's viability. Oxygen is built on Go-oo and doesn't add anything to core functionality.

Realvdude
Realvdude

I'm glad the foundation is taking action to safeguard the future existence of Oo, though I have to wonder if ghosting Oo until Oracle begins to kill it, would be a better strategy. This would allow end users to have the same confidence in each Libre build, that Jack has in the beta.

pgit
pgit

Good insight there. You're spot on with the BSD reference, too. I was hesitant to 'pick one' and went full tilt into Linux ca 1998, still haven't really picked up any BSD skills. MySQL is another sad story. There are a few interesting projects arising from what appear to be 'partial forks' out there, but unless someone has a major breakthrough it's too little, too late. Reinventing the wheel long after the trains have all left the station. (of course my opinion, which is known to be dead wrong on occasion =P) I noted your comment about postgreSQL elsewhere, I'll have to have a look at it. It's always been an option, but a lot of packagers in need of a back end have historically tended to use MySQL. I wonder why that is.. it's "just enough" for the task? (aka no overkill) Is MySQL easier to implement than postgre?

rgoeken1
rgoeken1

You have a point about technical writing and I agree. I also agree that this specific column was a tad confusing. I was only making an observation that the reader's comment didn't have much to say about the content of Mr. Wallen's column, only seemed to be nit picking the presentation. If a more balanced comment was made.... praise or damn the content and, "Oh BTW, there seems to be some errors in presentation, please correct.."---there would be no issue.

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