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.
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.