Lodahl's blog: Apache Open Office and LibreOffice should join forces

12 September 2014

Apache Open Office and LibreOffice should join forces


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.

Conclusion
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.


11 comments:

Anonymous said...

The LO code base was relicensed after AOO was founded. Why was that, then?

MBB said...

While from a marketing perspective, it makes sense to have one large wellknown non-competing product, I do not see the interest on other fronts.

From an earlier article, I understood that AOO managed to atrackt additional deveoloppers that had not signed on to LO, so they would be lost.

The develloppers (and sponsors) of the projects differ too, in disires in freedom to devellop and ownership to market.

And finally, the users of FOSS like choise and would probably re-fork again. (And they are not that high on the priority list anyway)

Perhaps the Quality Control could be shared so that it would get a larger shared testgroup and something to compate it to?


So for the intermediate future I see the projects growing apart, LO after it's cleanup ready for desktop and Tablet use, and AOO being offered as SAAS by large companies. (Unless the LO license allows SAAS hosting without giving back?)

Good luck with both projects, and may they share their best ideas regardless of the code

MBB

Anonymous said...

@14 September, 2014 21:45
LO code was licensed under MPL/LGPL before AOO existed.

Anonymous said...

"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."

and
"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 diversit"

I don't see why, according to you, Apache can do 100% to make the "two to tango" and LO can do 0%. The reasons you give are "because we are the first" and "stick to its original honorable principles about openness and diversity". It sounds a bit selfish and short sighted. If you want the two parties to work closer together then two parties can/should move, not one.

Simo Kaupinmäki said...

"I don't see why, according to you, Apache can do 100% to make the 'two to tango' and LO can do 0%."

A snippet from the original post:
"At the same time TDF decided NOT to ask contributors to hand over any other rights to the foundation than licensing the code [...]"

Perhaps this needs to be clarified a little. The bottom line is that the copyright on the LibreOffice code is not owned by TDF but by individual developers. TDF can not retroactively change the license of the code they do not own. Individual developers are of course free to re-license their own code if they please, but this is beyond the control of TDF.

Apache Foundation have been able to re-license their code because they have obtained the copyright on the original OpenOffice code-base from Oracle. This was not an option when LibreOffice was created. TDF had no choice but to release LibreOffice under the original license used by OpenOffice.org. All new contributions have been dual-licensed under the LGPL and MPL, as the goal has been to dual-license the entire suite one day (and this has actually become possible after the original OpenOffice code-base has been re-licensed by Apache), but the Apache license has never been included in TDF's plans. There has been a massive amount of work done on the LibreOffice code-base under the LGPL/MPL dual license, and it would be very difficult to get all the copyright holders to accept a change in the licensing scheme at this point.

Anonymous said...

Please see https://wiki.documentfoundation.org/Development/Relicensing

Simo Kaupinmäki said...

Please see https://wiki.documentfoundation.org/Development/Relicensing

I'm not sure what was the point of the anonymous poster of the link above, but perhaps this needs to be clarified too. MPLv2.0 specifically allows code to be distributed under the terms of GPLv2.0+, LGPLv2.1+, and AGPLv3.0+. MPL does not, however, allow code to be distributed under the terms of the Apache license. Allowing that would defeat the basic idea of the MPL (shared by the GPL, LGPL, and AGPL), which is copyleft.

For discussion on MPLv2.0 and copyleft compatibility, see http://opensource.com/law/11/9/mpl-20-copyleft-and-license-compatibility

KeithCu said...

The most important point to realize is that none of us can know the opportunity cost of the AOO fork compared to an alternate reality.

How many more bugs would have been fixed in LO if they teams had been working together in a unified, efficient basis? How many more donations? How many more random patches? How many users join AOO, but leave, because it isn't as easy to build as LibreOffice? Etc.

Anyone who thinks there should be separate teams hasn't really thought about all the inefficiencies of the current arrangement.

Anonymous said...

Looking at http://cgit.freedesktop.org/libreoffice/core/log/?h=aoo/trunk&showmsg=1 you can see that literally every one of the very few contributions to AOO is considered for LO, and LO has no problem keeping up.

AOO is an almost-dead project, sitting on a (still good) brand. Even IBM doesn't care much any more (most of the Beijing team was reassigned late last year). It's increasingly unclear what the purpose is these days.

Shane Curcuru said...

The original "split" was by the creators of TDF, who quite rightly took the code that Oracle appeared to be abandoning, and forked and created LibreOffice to keep development going under the GPL.

Oracle then later decided (as the copyright holder on the original Sun files of OO.c) to donate their code to the ASF - allowing use of the Apache license - in the hopes that it would become an Apache project. Luckily, committers both from IBM and a number of small companies (including a number of original OO.o committers) joined the project, and it did graduate as Apache OpenOffice (no space).

From the outside perspective I can understand why people keep asking that the projects should consider merging, but you need to look at it from each project's perspective. People working on Apache OpenOffice are just as attached to the permissive Apache license as people on LibreOffice are attached to the copyleft *GPL license.

The irony is that LibreOffice is able to take any Apache licensed code precisely because Apache is a permissive license. Apache cannot take LibreOffice code because Apache projects do not use GPL.

I'm glad we have both projects. But personally, I believe in using the Apache license just as much as LO folks believe in using the GPL license. 8-)

KeithCu said...

I don't really think the people at Apache are so "attached" to the license. If you care more about the license than the product or the people, you have your priorities totally out of whack.

You might be glad that both projects exists, and you might be glad when baby seals get clubbed, but if you look at it from a perspective of the community, efficiency, the cost to build multiple brands, etc. you should be able to see this as an example of the free software community shooting itself in the foot.