OpenOffice Developers Split From Oracle, Create Own Organization


A group of developers who contribute to OpenOffice.org, the open-source desktop productivity application suite now controlled by Oracle, are splitting off and starting a new foundation to manage the project's direction.

The new organization, known as The Document Foundation, said in a statement Tuesday that it has tentatively rebranded its own version of the open-source application suite as LibreOffice. But the foundation also said it has invited Oracle to join the new organization and "donate the [OpenOffice.org] brand the community has grown during the past ten years."

Oracle acquired the OpenOffice.org assets when it bought Sun Microsystems in January for $7.3 billion and has completed new releases of OpenOffice since then. But the move by the OpenOffice developers further raises questions about Oracle's relationship with the open source community over such technologies as Java and MySQL that Oracle acquired when it bought Sun.

Oracle issued a statement in response to the Document Foundation news."Oracle is investing substantial resources in OpenOffice.org," the company said. "With more than one hundred million users, we believe OpenOffice.org is the most advanced, most feature rich open source implementation and will strongly encourage the Open Office community to continue to contribute through www.openoffice.org. However, the beauty of open source is that it can be forked by anyone who chooses, as was done today. Our sincerest goal for Open Office is that it become more widely used so if this new foundation will help advance Open Office and the Open Document Format we wish them the best."

In its statement the Foundation said it "will be the cornerstone of a new ecosystem where individuals and organizations can contribute to and benefit from the availability of a truly free office suite. It will generate increased competition and choice for the benefit of customers and drive innovation in the office suite market."

OpenOffice was originally based on StarOffice, a product Sun Microsystems acquired from the German company StarDivision in 1999. Sun sponsored the OpenOffice.org organization through which it offered the application suite as an open-source product, but it also sold a commercial version of the software.

OpenOffice is one of the most widely used open-source software products and is seen as a leading alternative to Microsoft Office. A number of major vendors have products based on the software, including IBM's Lotus Symphony application suite.

The Document Foundation "is the result of a collective effort by leading independent members of the former OpenOffice.org community, including several project leads and key members of the Community Council," the organization's statement said. The foundation will be led by a steering committee of developers and national language project managers.

"The foundation aims to lower the barrier of adoption for both users and developers, to make LibreOffice the most accessible office suite ever," according to the statement. A beta version of LibreOffice is available at a placeholder site, http://www.libreoffice.org.

The question is whether LibreOffice will ultimately be a continuation of the original OpenOffice or a fork of the open-source development project.