The Rise of LibreOffice

The most widely used, open source, free, office suite application was, and I guess for the moment, still is, OpenOffice.org with over 100 Million users.  LibreOffice is a relatively new kid on the block, and for a reason, which we'll get to shortly.

OpenOffice.org was originally created by a German company,  StarDivision, which was then purchased by Sun in August 1999.  Sun, in an effort for the most part, to put a dent in Microsoft's Office marketshare, gave the source code to the world in July, 2000, and continued to develop it, and lead, in creating a robust office suite.  It was released as OpenOffice.org in April, 2002.  Since then several major corporatations, like Google and IBM, have partnered with the OpenOffice.org Community Council to distribute and develop OpenOffice.

And my, has OpenOffice grown over the years.  It has a word processor, spreadsheet, slide presentation program, a draw graphics program, and a database that matches up well with all the applications in Microsoft Office.  It writes and reads Microsoft Office files, is available on Windows, Mac, OS2, and Linux, and supports over 110 languages to give you an idea of its popularity.

However, suddenly, all is not right in the house of OpenOffice.  The catalyst for this unsettling was caused by Oracle's purchase of Sun in April, 2009.

The purchase of Sun by Oracle has caused a number of issues.  Sun previously controlled the licenses for MySQL, Java, and OpenOffice. Oracle wanted MySQL, because of its large users base, and as an entry into their proprietary and expensive database products.  Although Oracle, as part of the Sun agreement, must maintain MySQL as open source until 2015, Oracle has already made changes in the MySQL  functionality available for free, and its licensing, see my article on The Decline of MySQL.

For a number of years, Oracle has despertly wanted an office application to compete with Microsoft, so another key reason for the purchase of Sun was to acquire OpenOffice. Naturally, what worried the OpenOffice.org Community Council was Oracle might take OpenOffice private, and start charging for it.  Just as with MYSQL, a fork, or non-proprietary copy, was made of OpenOffice before Oracle's purchase, in case this might happen, though in the hopes that it would not.

The new fork was called LibreOffice, and the community that will develop and maintain LibreOffice named itself the Document Foundation. As a test of Oracle's intentions, Oracle was invited to become a charter member, donate the OpenOffice brand, and support the Document Foundation to promote LibreOffice as a true open source application.  In essence, Oracle was asked to give up any claims to licensing the software as a product.

Oracle rejected the proposal, and demanded, with a deadline, the resignation of all OpenOffice.org Community Council members, who were members of the new Document Foundation, claiming it was a conflict of interest, thus setting the two camps at odds with one another, instead of joined in a common interest.

With that fell swoop, OpenOffice went proprietary, in my mind, and in the minds of many members of the community.
The only conflict of interest that I see is that Oracle wants to turn OpenOffice into a money making product, which is their right.  However, who in the community of developers wants to spend time writing and improving code for Oracle. In essence OpenOffice is now proprietary.

Like a true fork, we now have two products, OpenOffice and LibreOffice, which started out the same product, but  like the CodeIgniter and Kohana fork, have already started to diverge.

The new 3.3 release of LibreOffice has some features not in OpenOffice: SVG image edit and import, Lotus Word Pro, and MS Works import, an improved WordPerfect import, a dialog box for title pages, document navigator, presenter view in Impress, and color-coded document icons.

What prompted this article is the community has already started to move toward LibreOffice.   OpenOffice will be replaced by LibreOffice in the next Ubuntu desktop release due next month.   Bye, bye, OpenOffice, hello, LibreOffice.


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