Given Oracle's recent decision to pull the plug on OpenSolaris, there has been considerable concern over the past few months about the future of the OpenOffice.org productivity software suite.
Both projects were inherited by Oracle when it acquired Sun early this year.
Tuesday brought good news for the legions of worried OpenOffice.org users, however, when the community of developers working on the project announced that they have formed an independent foundation, and will be using the name LibreOffice for their version--or "fork"--of the software, unless Oracle agrees to donate the OpenOffice.org brand.
Now known as The Document Foundation, the newly independent OpenOffice.org community aims to fulfill the promise of independence written in the original charter for the project. It has invited Oracle to become a member and to donate the OO.o brand, but I haven't heard back from the company yet with any indication of its intentions.
'Shaping the Future'
OpenOffice.org has long been the leading free and open source alternative to Microsoft's widely used Office package. The software has set download records on new releases, and estimates suggest it now accounts for about 10 percent of the overall office suite market. It is also included in several leading Linux distributions, including Ubuntu.
Now, under the name LibreOffice pending Oracle's decision, the software is available in a beta version at a placeholder LibreOffice Web site. An impressive list of supporters is already on board with the project, including Google, Novell, Red Hat, Canonical, the Open Source Initiative, the GNOME Foundation, and NeoOffice.
Developers, meanwhile, are invited to join the project and contribute to the code "in the new friendly and open environment, to shape the future of office productivity suites," the project's creators said.
'It Liberates Development'
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. It will be led initially by a steering committee of developers and national language project managers.
"We believe that the foundation is a key step for the evolution of the free office suite, as it liberates the development of the code and the evolution of the project from the constraints represented by the commercial interests of a single company," explained Sophie Gautier, a veteran community member and the former maintainer of the French language project.
"Free software advocates around the world have the extraordinary opportunity of joining the group of founding members today, to write a completely new chapter in the history of FLOSS," Gautier added.
The Beauty of Open Source
It will certainly be very interesting to see how Oracle responds. Thanks to the beauty of open source, however, it doesn't really matter in the long run.
Sure, it would be nice to have the company on board, and to be able to keep the OpenOffice.org name. If not, though, life will go on--and so will the project.
This is how things work in the world of open source, and it's why both business and individual users of the software can rest assured. No matter what any one company might decide to do, OpenOffice.org--or LibreOffice--is now in good, independent hands.
Follow Katherine Noyes on Twitter: @Noyesk.