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Oracle vs. LibreOffice

A couple of weeks ago the members of the OpenOffice Community Council that are employed by Oracle have set an ultimatum to the rest of the members to step down from the council citing conflict of interest by them (All members not employed by Oracle have joined The Document Foundation which is making available LibreOffice, a fork of OpenOffice which allows easier contributions for community contributors).

While I did not expect anything else to happen (who would have ever thought that Oracle would join the efforts of more transparency and community involvement, taking into account their latest actions in regard to OpenSolaris), I find the stand of the Oracle employee council members rather hypocritical.

My first question would be, why is the majority of council members stacked with Oracle employees in the first place? It is a community council, not the project steering board, it should represent the mostly volunteer community, which has certainly different interests than the a for profit corporation. Hence, the people with a conflict of interest all along have never stepped down in the first place.

Secondly, the employees of Oracle have with no question at all a conflict of interest in regard of the question if people that support LibreOffice would have a conflict of interest in regards of the OpenOffice community. Their financial livelihood is dependent on OpenOffice. LibreOffice threatens not only Oracle, but also them personally.

At last, I think this is really a comedic sideshow. As Gorbachev once said, I paraphrase, "Who is late, will be punished by reality". The train has already left the station. All major players in Open Source have already declared that they will support LibreOffice over OpenOffice. There is no community left for OpenOffice (except maybe Oracle customers). Therefore, there is no need for an OpenOffice community council anymore. I suggest it will be just abandoned, and the members supporting LibreOffice would be well advised to start a new community council for LibreOffice where the community really is.

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Comments

I used to work for Oracle and a lot of their strategy is based around going against Microsoft, since SQL is viewed as a competing product.

Do you really believe that all of the TDF/LibO volunteer community have no financial interest in the success of LibO or OOo? Look at the German community and see how many run a consulting business around it.

The COI is not whether or not you have financial interest. Quite contrary, financial interest will drive your commitment to the product ultimately. The COI is in the fact that leaders on the CC were leaders in the TDF also. And they were asked to step back, quite a normal thing to do if you are on competing projects.

The CC can be backfilled by community members, since -- regardless of the FUD spread by some, including you -- there is an OOo community left that is not employed by Oracle. Besides, Oracle employees are also part of the community, of course. A vital part even, because without Sun's financial commitment OOo would have been dead for long.

TDF/LibO made a good attempt in trying to create the perception that they were the only legitimate successor of the OOo community and the current hype seems to prove them right. But they created the TDF and forked without involving any community body and prio announcement and therefore have shown the arrogance and elitism that they accuse Oracle of.

All major players in Open Source have already declared that they will
support LibreOffice over OpenOffice.

So who are those "major players" and what do their "declarations" look like?
Make a reality check at the TDF site to look at the lip service from subordinate program managers of corporations that either have had their own agenda for a while (Novell) or have a quite obvious interest to oppose anything that is Oracle (Google).

Admittedly, their approach may fit better to the FLOSS paradigm. If this keeps the project alive remains to be seen. Such a project cannot survive without serious corporate sponsorship - and no corporation will sponsor just for charity.

It is sad to see that so few try to approach this matter with the appropriate distance and instead just chime in to the choir of dull Oracle bashers.

1) There are plenty of open source software projects that are not hijacked by one company that are well support by community and corporations. Allowing a broad community to help shape a product is good business sense.

2) The issue is not if someone gains financially through consulting services. The issue is if someone is directly dependent of the entity that has all the control in the first place. Remember that Oracle, as Sun before requires contributors to assign for free the copyright of their work. In turn Oracles intention is to be able to change the licence of the same code and earn directly from this code. Consulting services in contrast are additional services that are paid for added value.

3) The charter for the community council, while not explicitly forbidding it, clearly suggests that only one position is occupied by a Oracle (formerly Sun Employee). The Open Source community works different than board of directors in the corporate world which are usually stacked for control. A community council is supposed to represent the interests of the community, not the corporate establishment. Otherwise, the freedom gained is not a lot worth, is it?

4) All major Linux distributions will ship LibreOffice instead of OpenOffice. Furthermore, the contributions from the community will now ar more valued than before. Even in Sun times, Open Office was known as not being very efficient in using the effects of a scalable community. Hopefully, TDF will do this far better. And hopefully, we will find a licencing model which will prevent Oracle to change the licence conditions on community contributed code. As a first step, no copyright assignment is required.

5) There is no hype, just reality. Oracle has not create a lot of trust in the Open Source community by just trying to exploit it without giving back a lot. In the end, the consumer decides which product to use. User become more emancipated, and will make better choices. I doubt Oracle's business model will fit in this principle.

There is nothing wrong in earning money with open source. We all want to do that. However, it would be stupid to allow corporations like Oracle to just take advantage of the goodwill of the open source community. It is time that freely given code is owned by the author, not by a corporation that does not give a cent for it.

Also remember, TDF was created to put OpenOffice under control of a non-profit and invited Oracle to participate. The fork was overdue due to the problems that already existed under Sun, but certainly increased by the take over of Oracle. Oracle's response was to see competition in this move. Forking is a part of the evolution process in FLOSS when the project does not satisfy the requirements of the community. Often forks merge together again. However, by the even greater disenfranchisement of the community, Oracle has shown the community were its interest lie, obviously not with the community.

Everybody who has an interest in FLOSS knows that it is important to have a viable Office suite. This is my only interest, since I have no ties to either side in this. In my opinion, it is important that the FLOSS community will stand clearly behind the better solution which on the face of it is LibreOffice and support it, as already all major Linux distributions have done.

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