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11/2/2010
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OpenOffice.org Developers Flee To LibreOffice

Shakeup followed Oracle's decision to fire leaders of the Document Foundation, which is heading up the alternative open source productivity suite.

The open source community grew fractured this weekend, when 33 developers resigned from the Oracle-supported OpenOffice.org after Oracle CEO Larry Ellison shook up the open source software suite's membership.

Oracle took the reins of OpenOffice when it acquired Sun Microsystems. With OpenOffice's future uncertain, some OpenOffice proponents formed the Document Foundation (TDF) as an alternate advocacy and development group. In September, the Document Foundation asked Oracle CEO Larry Ellison to donate the OpenOffice name to LibreOffice, the name it was using for its open source office productivity suite. Ellison declined.

"The TDF Steering Committee (SC) invited Oracle to join, asking them to give away the OpenOffice.org mark," wrote Roberto Galoppini, a specialist in commercial open source software, and long-time member of OpenOffice, in his blog. "Inviting a corporation to join a will-be foundation without a document describing a draft legal and governance structure sounds a bit naive, though. SC members have been promoting the idea that copyright assignment is bad from the very first day, while eminent members of our community asked to reconsider this position. While individuals may prefer to avoid the burden of copyright agreements, corporations and companies tend to like them more. "

Deciding there was a conflict of interest between the two groups, last weekend Ellison fired Document Foundation's founders and the 33 developers resigned in protest. Google, Novell, Red Hat, and Canonical already have voiced their support for LibreOffice. Canonical's Mark Shuttleworth has said LibreOffice may replace OpenOffice in future Ubuntu releases, according to some published reports.

On Sunday, the 33 developers submitted an open letter to the OpenOffice community, outlining some of the reasons for their decision.

"The answer for us who sign this letter is clear: We want a change to give the community as well as the software it develops the opportunity to evolve," the open letter says. "For this reason, from now on we will support the Document Foundation and will -- as a team -- develop and promote LibreOffice. We hope that many are going to join us on this path."

LibreOffice beta 2 is available. Source code is hosted in the FreeDesktop.org Git repository, and no copyright assignment is needed to contribute to the suite.

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