12 September 2014
This proposal has been said many times over the last couple of years and lately repeated by Daniel Brunner, head of the IT department of Switzerland's Federal Supreme Court.https://joinup.ec.europa.eu/community/osor/news/open-and-libre-office-projects-should-reunite.
And from the first point of view I can only agree. There is no reason what so ever that the two open source projects shouldn't. But it hasn’t happened yet and there are reasons. Its not a simple thing to do.
Before I continue I would like to emphasize that I'm part of the game and therefore you should consider this as one of many voices in the choir and not some kind of "I know the truth" statement. I'm member of The Document Foundation and not a neutral opinion. I would also emphasize that I'm speaking on behalf of my self and not as member of any organization.
First lets take a tour down Memory Lane. Kind'a old school but it can help understand the complexity.
Sun was purchased by Oracle Corporation in early 2010. OpenOffice.org community members were concerned at Oracle's behavior towards open source software, and the lack of activity on OpenOffice.org.
On 28 September 2010, The Document Foundation was announced as the host of LibreOffice, a new derivative of OpenOffice.org. The announcement was well accepted in the free software environment because The Document Foundation shares many values with free software. This includes strong copyleft licensing, and a meritocratic organization. At the same time TDF decided NOT to ask contributors to hand over any other rights to the foundation than licensing the code which was clearly a result of requirements from SUN Microsystems and Oracle in the OpenOffice.org-days. The foundation focuses furthermore very much on the diversity among members and contributes which has attracted hundreds of volunteer contributors.
Shortly after Oracle announced their continuous strong commitment to OpenOffice.org.
Oracle announced in April 2011 that it was ending its development of OpenOffice.org and in June 2011 it was announced that it would donate the OpenOffice.org code and trademark to the Apache Software Foundation. Open Office was then re-licensed with the Apache License which is not copyleft. The Apache License is considered permissive in that it does not require a derivative work of the software, or modifications to the original, to be distributed using the same license (unlike copyleft licenses).
The two license philosophies means that code can go from Apache Open Office to LibreOfffice but NOT the other way. This is not a decision made explicitly but its a consequence of the choice of licenses in the two projects.
Please take notice of the order in which these actions took place! When TDF was announced, nobody knew about Oracle donating anything to Apache. But when it happened, it was clear to both Oracle and Apache that TDF was strongly in favor of strong copyleft licenses.
The consequence of the choice of a permissive license was at the time clear to all: It can never happen that code goes from LibreOffice to Open Office but visa versa is possible at any time. The decision was in other words taken by Oracle and Apache NOT by TDF.
I agree that it would be great if the two projects would join. Combining the effort would naturally benefit the community, but the decision can only be taken by one of the parts. Members of the projects has been invited to join TDF at many occasions from the very beginning.
It takes two to tango and the one who can make the decision is Apache Open Office - who unfortunately refuses to dance. TDF can't make any decision except from stick to its original honorable principles about openness and diversity.