Forks and spoons, and LibreOffice

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Forks and spoons, Open Office and Libre Office

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When Oracle gained control of OpenOffice, the project forked, and LibreOffice was born. Now that Oracle has relinquished control and given to the Apache Foundation, should the two reunite, or "spoon?"

Colin Dodd is a writer at Red Hat.


From what I can see, LibreOffice has already pushed so much further ahead of OpenOffice, that from a technical standpoint I can't see the point of a "merge" or "spoon".

Perhaps from a marketing and branding standpoint there might be a reason to do so, but I think that's still pretty complicated to get sorted out.

So, from my perspective, there's really not compelling evidence that an "unfork" should happen.

I don't know whether it <em>will</em> happen but I hope they eventually decide to just throw out the OpenOffice codebase and slap the name onto LibreOffice.

Given that the name OpenOffice is probably better than LibreOffice from a marketing and memorability standpoint when dealing with business and the average person, I think that'd be the best outcome overall.

The poll asks the question twice. The first question asks if the two projects will unite. The second question is whether the two projects should unite. I voted on the "will" question.

Steve Stites

Those pesky words, changing context ;)

OH! I didn't know Oracle gave OpenOffice to the Apache Foundation, that's amazing!!! Since evil Oracle is the entire reason it was forked in the first place, I absolutely think they should re-merge, for the sake of the brand. OpenOffice has the long-recognized brand name (and even so - so much of the microsoft-raised culture still thinks you need to spend a few hundred $$ on MS Office to edit 'documents' and use the word 'excel' instead of spreadsheet) so the splitting I think weakens the branding, especially when competing with Microsoft Office for people's awareness.

Aside from that, having two separate dev teams is redundant and a waste of resources, and will stunt growth. The teams should work together for the greater good and work from the same codebase. I don't think anybody's too attached to the name "Libre Office" at this point.. it doesn't have the same ring to it, and aside from that, the average dumb american thinks libre just means 'free', which sounds 'cheap', and doesn't imply the concept of 'open' even though the word 'libre' is probably actually more accurate and descriptive than 'open', the same ignorant people who only know about MS Office will probably think it's low-quality freeware, especially without having a long reputation at this point

"having two separate dev teams is redundant and a waste of resources, and will stunt growth."

There are advantages to the redundancy. One possibility is that the competition will result in a superior and an inferior product. The superior product will thrive and the inferior product die off.

Another possibility is that the two projects will fill slightly different market niches and thus serve the market better than a single "one size fits all" product.

The resources available are not created by a budgeting process like in a proprietary development. The resources are created by people and organizations volunteering to work on an objective that they like. Only having one project would not necessarily attract the volunteers who are attracted to the second project. In the Open Office - Libre Office fork its is obvious that each group of volunteers is not particularly interested in working on the other project.

Steve Stites

they should merge back into one project, because MS office is growing fast and losing time in 2 projects with the somes goals and bases is very good for developpers of this projects and for oss users.
there is calligra, and 2 open source offices projects are enougth for users. now, developpers should make them better.
also, if Libreoffice and openoffice merge into 1 project, the sponsors of each one will in the same project
sorry about my bad english :)

Don't think they will re-merge, and from a moral prospective not sure the should. Since there is essentially no prospect of the Apache project relicensing to the LGPL any merger would requiire LibreOffice developers to agree to relicense their LGPL code under the Apache license, this seems unfair to developers who chose to donate code to LibreOffice under the CopyLeft terms of the LGPL.

LibreOffice is under LGPLv3. OpenOffice is under the Apache License 2.0. They're compatible as long as the whole project is licensed under the more restrictive one (LGPL).

That means that LibreOffice can take OpenOffice patches without becoming Apache-licensed while OpenOffice cannot take LibreOffice patches without becoming LGPLed.

(Same way you can merge BSD/MIT code into pretty much anything. Apache 2.0 is effectively BSD/MIT with a patent grant and all of the v3 GPL-family licenses have been adapted to ensure compatibility with it.)

The survey question, I thought was interestingly worded. There would be some advantages to merging the two projects into one, but it seems highly unlikely to me. This is one area where OSS has not always lived up to its promise: lots of forks--there's always a justifiable reason at the time (as in this case), but then you end up with things being somewhat fragmented. For better or worse, I think I'm a LibreOffice user for the foreseeable future; I doubt very much there'll be a "spoon" event in these code-bases' future.

Why does everyone seem to think that this is a zero sum game, and that open source coders are some sort of homogenous group that seek only the most efficient solution? 8-)

Personally, I don't see them ever merging, primarily because both projects - LO and AOO - have a significant number of contributors who will only contribute under their choice of license (i.e. either GPL or AL). So from the point of view of the various people (working for many different companies, or simply volunteering personal time) actually doing the work on the projects, there's no point in explicitly merging them.

This is not to say that many of the developers don't want to share code and ideas - we certainly hope there's plenty of technical sharing, and the AL's permissive terms in particular make it easy for just about anyone to take AOO code if they choose. But from the point of view of the coders - the people actually building these two great products - there's not much point (currently) in merging the projects.

But folks are welcome to try to convince us otherwise - but note that open source communities tend to listen more to the people who are actually writing useful code for them.

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