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OpenOffice, LibreOffice and the Scarcity Fallacy

As you’ve probably heard, the proposal to move OpenOffice.org to the Apache Software Foundation was approved by a wide margin.  Volunteers interested in helping with this project continued to sign up, even during the 72-hour ballot, giving the project 87 members, as well as 8 experienced Apache  mentors, at the end of the vote.  The volunteers signed up included an impressive number of programmers from OpenOffice.org, RedOffice and Symphony,  as well as QA engineers, translators, education project experts, OOo user forum moderators and admins,  marketing project members, documentation leads, etc.    The broad range of support for this new project, from volunteers as well as voters, was very encouraging.

Of course, this is not the end of our recruitment effort.  In some sense it marks only the beginning.    What I wrote about in my previous notes, about the Apache meritocracy remains true.  However, now that the proposal has advanced and an Apache “Podling” (a probationary project) has been created, the way to sign up has changed.    You should now sign up to the project’s mailing lists directly.  For example, an email to ooo-dev-subscribe@incubator.apache.org will get you onto the project’s main dev mailing list.  Anyone interested in participating needs to get onto this list,  including those who already earlier expressed interest as “proposed committers” as well as new volunteers.

I would be negligent if, in mentioning the successful approval of the Apache OpenOffice proposal, I did not acknowledge that there were other, dissenting, opinions expressed.   That is fine and indeed welcome.  It is good that we don’t all think the same.  However, in order to have a plurality of views, and to give users a plurality of applications to choose from, we also need plurality of projects in the open source world.  So it was disappointing to witness a small but vocal minority of non-Apache members who disagreed with the proposal and who attempted to derail it.  The day closed minded open source advocates decide to smother a new project in its crib, because they personally favor a different project, is the day that FOSS dies.

I believe that one unstated assumption in their reasoning was that there is a scarcity of developers and a scarcity of users in the personal productivity application area, and that the success of a new project can only come at the expense of another project, in this case at the expense of LibreOffice.  The assumption was that we’re playing a zero-sum game, and like junk yard dogs we’re fighting to the death over scraps.  In this view (which I believe to be false), as illustrated below,  LibreOffice supporters see Apache OpenOffice as a mortal threat to their project,  since its gain comes only at their expense.

Of course, this is inaccurate in many ways.  For example, the market share of LibreOffice, although strong on Linux, is actually quite low in the much larger Windows platform, where OpenOffice is still the leading open source office suite.  So overall, OpenOffice has greater market share than LibreOffice has today.

And in the real world, outside of FOSS blogs, the world runs predominately Microsoft Office, a proprietary set of applications.  The other proprietary applications, like Corel WordPerfect and Google Docs  and Apple iWork,  combined with Microsoft Office represent well over 90% of the market.  Open source, of all varieties, including LibreOffice, is rather small.

So rather than fighting over the remaining 5%, I think we should set our sights on a more transformative engagement with the market.  This need not be a zero-sum, I-Win/You-Lose situation.  OpenOffice and LibreOffice can both win.  OpenOffice and LibreOffice and Calligra Suite and AbiWord and Gnumeric can all gain users at the same time.  And this can happen at the same time that mixed-source applications based upon OpenOffice also grow and gain users.

There is no scarcity but scarcity in vision.

Apache OpenOffice, with its permissive license, is an excellent basis now for open source as well as mixed source business models, business models that drive investment back into the ecosystem.  The mixed source segment will grow the most,  I believe.  But so will the pure open source version, because of the increased investment.   We’ve had LGPL with OpenOffice for 10 years now.  We’ve seen the modest success with which business models based on LGPL advanced in this segment of the market.  Do we think another 10 years of the same will do much better?  Personally, I think it is time, after a decade, to try enabling additional options,  things that have not been tried yet.

So rather than the scarcity fallacy, the impact of Apache OpenOffice will be more like the following diagram:

So let’s stop this nonsense, this fallacy of scarcity. Let’s stop fighting over that little 5% box.  Instead, let’s look toward how we restore the choice and diversity that we had in this market segment back in 1990, but do it better.  We have something now we didn’t have back then, and that is an International Standard for document exchange, ODF.   This can and should be the basis for interoperability among competing application suites.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Jesper Lund Stocholm 2011/06/14, 2:43 am

    Hi Rob,

    Even though I initially dissagreed in moving OOo to Apache, this is a very good post you’ve written here.


    /Jesper Lund Stocholm

  • KeithCu 2011/06/14, 3:11 am

    Hello Rob,

    These are the places I disagree with you:
    The problem isn’t that you have some good ideas and want to help out. The problem is that you want to create a fork. The problem has to do with the specifics of your plan. So this small minority has an important point: we don’t need more forks.

    Consider an alternate plan like to merge Apache and TDF, and make the LibreOffice codebase and license the baseline, and adopt the OO trademark. Do you know what different things would happen with that plan?

    So please understand we only want to “derail” this project because we want to work together in one codebase. It is not “derailing”. It is focusing and economizing effort. This plan is not helpful to the free software community. In fact it hurts the free software community. This is the sort of idea Microsoft would want you to do. Some think forks are okay because they’ve happened before. This is like advocating for murder because murder has happened before.

    Next: there is a scarcity of programmers who can improve this codebase. By forcing people to work in the same codebase, it ensures a division of labor which increases the pace of progress. How many Linus Torvalds are out there?

    You blame the lack of success of OpenOffice on the LGPL license. That is speculation, and wrong. The problem was that this project didn’t encourage a community. The LibreOffice people can explain this history to you. The LibreOffice community is doing fine and no one inside has complained and wanted to create a fork of LibreOffice.

    We aren’t fighting over the 5%. We are fighting over whether to create a fork.
    You could build a house out of concrete -> good idea
    You could build a house out of sand -> bad idea


  • Andreas Kuckartz 2011/06/14, 6:11 am

    You write “it was disturbing to witness a small but vocal minority of non-Apache members who disagreed with the proposal attempt to derail it.”

    That is an “interesting” view on what has happened on the Apache Incubator mailing list. In fact there was an *explicit* request by you to stop any discussion on certain types of possible agreement with the LibreOffice community supported by a threat that you would withdraw from the mailing list otherwise. If that threat had been successful it likely would have derailed any collaboration between OpenOffice.org and LibreOffice.

    While IBM Lotus Symphony is available for free (as in beer) it is not “mixed source” but closed source as far as I know.

    The dominance by Microsoft is not a result of better products but of lock-in effects. That situation will not be improved by splitting the community or making collaboration between OpenOffice.org and LibreOffice impossible.

  • Matěj Cepl 2011/06/14, 6:25 am

    This is just many words about nothing. Facts are simple:

    IBM could collaborate on LGPL project and use it inside of their proprietary one (they wouldn’t be the first such project) and they chose not to.

    What’s missing?

  • oiaohm 2011/06/14, 6:46 am

    Ok example mixed source. Unix’s based of BSD source trees. Result complete disaster zone of incompatible implementations.

    How many examples of the failures of Mixed source do I have to quote.

    Now lets say our goal is a strong project. Strong project would see what is in place. LGPL and MPL at Libreoffice. OpenOffice change its code base to LGPL and MPL and now the two code based of LibreOffice and OpenOffice can merge back into one code base.

    MPL allows more flexible embedding than what LGPL does. Any alterations to the MPL code must be released. But building MPL into a larger work is fine.

    Mix source solutions like android work? Not really there is major spread even in that.

    Simple fact of the issue we want ODF to be a strong standard. We need a core project that is LGPL or MPL. Remember Orcale and SUN before them require copy-right assignments for code submissions.

    So 10 years with a pure LGPL is different to 10 years with LGPL where all submits require copyright assignment. Libreoffice has submitters who could never submit to OpenOffice due to its copyright assignment requirements at the time.

    Their will also be developers who will not be allowed by there bosses to submit to apache license project where they are allowed to submit to a GPL or MPL one. Purely based on possible threats from competition.

    The Now will remain how it is. Why because LibreOffice will have features OpenOffice will not be able to import.

    I am not thinking Scarcity of developers. I am purely thinking Scarcity of features. To compete against MS Office we need to lift quality and features.

    Having a closed source group take OpenOffice add on some of those features and not give back is not helping us be able to complete head to head with MS Office.

    History. Don’t have to go too far back in OpenOffice were each closed source fork implemented Spreadsheet formulas different to everyone else. MS went right to the extrema of using OOXML formulas.

    Copyright assignment also ruined OpenOffice for being a base for a lot of programs. Reason find a bug go to submit it back to mainline then need to get boss to sign off. Hello problems. You mean we are signing over open right to Sun or Oracle get lost. Now that closed source user is now stuffed.

    I do see a reason to have both OpenOffice and LibreOffice existing. Healthy requires them both with the same licensing. So that code can be shared backwards and forwards. So both can try new features if a feature turns out good the other one picks it up.

    Currently Openoffice will be a poaching target for LibreOffice if the licenses remain as planed.
    Do we want strong competition against MS or don’t we. Don’t want strong competition back the APL plan.

    Truefully what one would you base a project off of. LibreOffice with MPL with all the possible features. Or OpenOffice with APL with features missing because it cannot import those features from LibreOffice.

    Somehow I think a sane person would go LibreOffice.

  • Frank Ch. Eigler 2011/06/14, 8:57 am

    Rob, can you propose a metric by which you might empirically test the predictions? How much market share, how many developers/patches/releases, measured how, how soon?

  • Rob 2011/06/14, 10:55 am

    @Jesper, thanks for the note.

    @Keith, When you say “we”, I’m translating that mentally into “In my personal opinion”, since I do not recall ever seeing your name used in conjunction with LibreOffice or OpenOffice before. You are certainly not listed as a TDF Steering Committee member, or even as a TDF member.

    As to what is the fork and what is the trunk is a question on which parties may disagree. Discussions about what the “one true church” is are rarely productive. The fact remains that 87 people volunteered to work on Apache OpenOffice. These are 87 people who, for one reason or another, were not attracted to LibreOffice in the past 8 months. But they signed up for Apache OpenOffice in two weeks.

    Now, you can certainly argue that the LO project would be larger if everyone just volunteered there. But that is like the Baptists arguing that the Methodist church should be closed because that would give the Baptists a larger choir. In the end, people volunteer where they want to, not where you tell them to, and certainly not where I tell them to. That is the nature of volunteering, that it is voluntary.

    @Andreas, Yes, I did point out that the conversation was getting very close to a conspiracy to divide the market. Since that is illegal in the US, I stated that I would leave the conversation if it continued down that tracks. Competitors should not be scheming ways to reduce competition. I can’t stop others from having these discussions, but it is something I will not discuss myself.

    If you look at the Symphony Help/About dialog you will see that it says, “Based on OpenOffice”. Since OpenOffice is open source, and the parts added by IBM are closed source, the combination is mixed source, at least by my definition.

    As for “splitting the community”, those are ominous words, but what do they really mean. Without defining “community”, I think we’re spinning around on words.

    I hear in these discussions the word “community” is used in two different senses, and this equivocation between these senses is used for rhetorical effect, but little else.

    Let me me spell it out explicitly:

    Community (sense 1): Any specific existing group of people who are members of an actual open source project.

    Community (sense 2): An aspirational vision of a group of people whom someone thinks ought to be working together on a specific open source project.

    I don’t think that anyone can argue that Apache OpenOffice in any sense, “split” an existing community, in sense 1. The committers on Apache OpenOffice are not people taken away from LibreOffice. So you cannot honestly say that Apache splits the community, at least not in that sense.

    Sense 2 is a but more subjective, since each person might have their own vision of what the ideal community would look like. If you define your aspirational community to include those who have signed up for Apache, then you are coveting what you do not have, and that will only lead to your dissatisfaction. Similarly, if I defined an aspirational community to include all Microsoft-paid developers who are working currently on Microsoft Office, then I would be setting myself up for disappointment.

    So when I hear someone talking about “splitting the community”, I mentally restate it in less inflammatory words as, “I have a vision of a unified community in LibreOffice but this future unity cannot be achieved if there exists another open source project where volunteers can contribute”.

    @Matěj, We could contribute to KOffice too, if we wanted. Or contribute no where. Or start our own open source project from SmartSuite. There are many thing we could do. Choosing any one option inherently means not choosing the alternatives. We choose Apache. That doesn’t mean you need to agree with out choice. And I don’t need to agree with yours. But it would be bad form for me to argue that you should not be allowed to pursue your own choice.

    @oiaohm, That is one theory, but not the only theory. I don’t think either theory is provable. But the interesting thing is that there is an industry trend away from copyleft and toward permissive licensing for community-led open source projects.

    @Frank, I think the metrics in this area have been known for years. Number of users is the key one, though hard to measure. Downloads is one proxy, but that under-counts copies distributed in-house or with Linux distros. Analysts do surveys of corporations for software use, but that under-counts individual and home use.

    I don’t put any credence in activity-based metrics, like patches, since one can create an enormous amount of code activity by “cleaning up” the code, without having an impact that would increasing a project’s user base.

    As for time horizons, I think the magic date is April 2014. That is when support ends for Office 2003, the version of Microsoft Office that most users are still on. The alternatives that are strongest in April 2014, whether proprietary, mixed source or open source, will do very, very well. How many patches or releases a project does in the next 6 is almost irrelevant. What matters is where they are two years from now.

  • Nomen Nescio 2011/06/14, 11:22 am

    The important thing is not the arguments about OpenOffice.org and LibreOffice, but the strength of the ODF standard. So long as the standard is not forked, and remains free and open, having more than one office program suite support the standard is a good thing. If anything, having more than one implementation will expose where the standard is ambiguous and help to improve the interoperability of future versions.

  • Alexandre Oliva 2011/06/14, 12:48 pm

    it’s interesting for you to criticize the alleged attempts to derail the move to Apache, after IBM’s attempt to derail LibreOffice. Is it to be understood that derailing is only ok when it’s against your perceived opponents?

    I’m very concerned about your metrics of success. More “Mixed source” projects, be they based on ASLv2, or on MPL/LGPL, aren’t a positive outcome for software freedom; it just amounts to more voluntary contributions being used as Free Bait to capture users unawares.

    The fallacy in your argument is that there wouldn’t be (more) commercial investment in the development of a codebase if it was or remained under a copyleft license. All the existing evidence points at the opposite: it was Sucle’s (for short) demand to retain ©ontrol that made voluntary and commercial contributions more difficult. This indicates that the possibility of appropriation/privativization by any one party is detrimental to external contributions. So, moving to a permisive license, that enables any one party to take control over derived versions and deprive downstream recipients from essential freedoms, will keep only those clueless enough to think proprietarization is advantageous. Everyone who cares about respecting others’ freedoms, be they motivated by profit or altruism, and those who seek a more featureful version than the permissively-licensed codebase, will naturally remain closer to LibreOffice.

    So the future should be fine given the current state of affairs, but this unfortunately move won’t be without victims: my concern is to those who will inevitably be baited by this PR stunt, particularly the future victims of the proprietary derived versions.

  • The Contrarian 2011/06/14, 12:59 pm

    “In this view (which I believe to be false), as illustrated below, LibreOffice supporters see Apache OpenOffice as a mortal threat to their project, since its gain comes only at their expense.”

    I notice you have no links in this statement. Who are these LibreOffice supporters who see OpenOffice.org at Apache as a mortal threat? Please name names and provide references, or stop the FUD.

    All I saw was constant attempts by a variety of people to propose collaborative approaches, which you and your colleagues rhetorically lambasted without actually considering or permitting others to consider. Your attempt to invoke anti-trust was particularly distasteful and people said so on the list, so it’s a surprise to see you repeating it here.

  • Andreas Kuckartz 2011/06/14, 2:48 pm

    @Rob. OpenOffice.org currently is only available under the LGPL3 or based on a proprietary license from Oracle.

    Does IBM make the source code of those parts of Symphony available which would be required by the LGPL3 ? If not I would conclude that the “OpenOffice.org” on which Symphony is based is a piece of proprietary software which *also* was made available by Sun/Oracle as Open Source using a weak copyleft license. Otherwise IBM would violate the LGPL3 which certainly is very unlikely.

  • vexorian 2011/06/14, 3:33 pm

    In advance, I will begin by stating that in my opinion “mixed source”: is a marketing-friendly way of saying “Closed source but with free labor”. I am yet to experience a case in which this business model was of any more benefit to the user than free-of-cost proprietary. It does seem to allow mixed source players to get programmers for free. I guess that’s a good thing, for them. This is a completely personal opinion as a user, but it reflects past experience and if those in the Mixed source business really believe I am wrong they should take my wrongness into notice that they are not reflecting the image they want to.

    It may appear lately that Oracle had purchased Sun only to take the least FOSS-friendly decisions possible. Or wasn’t it? It may appear that, before making any decision, the first thing that comes to their mind is “How can I maximize the harm to FOSS in the next step?”. Their first move was sue Google and become part of MS FUD machine against Android. The second step was to smother Open office forcing the Libre fork. Once they noticed that LibreOffice was actually threatening to be a good, positive consequence of the Sun buy out, we have Oracle donating OOo so that it gets a permissive license. Why was it necessary to do this at all? If it was an attempt to show good will, it was simple enough to donate the project to LibreOffice. Instead, they tried hard to make the fork stronger.

    To me, it does not really matter as long as LibreOffice stays GPLv3. Let Mixed source corps and their mixed respect towards users have fun with their permissive licenses. I , as a user have seen the result of what happens when those permissive licenses are used in core projects (read: WINE vs Cedega), so I currently have many reasons to prefer LibreOffice. Other users that do not know better can pick OpenOffice if they wish and use it until it dies or gets a proprietary fork.

    It may be a scarcity fallacy, but the reality is that whatever we do, the MSOffice competitors may raise in market share but the market share stolen from them will most likely be close to a zero sum game. As of now, users are not staying with MSOffice because they don’t have choices. There is a wide amount of “choice” in the office application market, it appears to me that lock-in is the main reason they do not migrate. However, I like to think that at the end LibreOffice will get more development and support from users. So the Apache possession of Open Office is not a concern for me, but to those that will in the close future waste their time on trust on yet another “Mixed Source” endeavor thinking that it will be different this time.


  • Mike 2011/06/14, 5:33 pm

    Thanks for thr insight Rob and congratulations to all who made the Probatory Apache OpenOffice project a reality! I am very thrilled by this announcement…

  • Matthew Raymond 2011/06/14, 5:57 pm


    There is no scarcity fallacy, because there are finite programmers in the world no matter how fast the population grows. Even if everyone on earth were a programmer from birth, there would still be a finite number of person hours available for a single project, and if you add a project, one project must necessarily take person hours from another.

    One could argue that members of the Apache OOo incubator wouldn’t have worked on LibreOffice even if the incubator never existed. In that scenario, you have people who wanted to work on OOo, but didn’t because they didn’t care for the license. However, that ignores people joining the project due to the public support of Oracle and IBM, OpenOffice.org and Apache brand recognition and simple ignorance of LibreOffice outside of certain circles.

    Metrics on this seem to be poor, so logic alone is appears insufficient to reasonably assuage the concerns of TDF supporters. For better or worse, we may only know the impact of the Apache OOo incubator in hindsight.

    “Mixed Code”:

    I’m not clear on what this means. If “mixed source” means that some of the code is open source, I don’t see how LGPL or MPL are necessarily incompatible with that, and I thus conclude that LibreOffice can be just as readily used for “mixed source” projects.

    If “mixed source” means projects that can take source from permissively-licensed open source projects and only return code as they see fit, how is this different from current proprietary code in any meaningful way? Is anyone under the impression that Microsoft has never used code licensed under Apache or BSD? Under this definition, all proprietary software potentially becomes “mixed code”.

    Sharing Code:

    There are three ways TDF can use Apache code:

    1) Cooperation On Code. This requires licensing all shared code in the Apache License 2.0, which could potentially be a major copyright management headache. TDF would have to yield architectural authority to Apache or vice versa for all shared code. Alternatively, TDF could simply make LibreOffice a perpetual superset of specific portions of the OOo code base.

    2) Shared Developers. TDF developers could choose to contribute their own code to Apache OOo as well as LibreOffice. This works well only if the code shared by both projects doesn’t diverge, so it would probably be impractical for fast-changing portions of the code base.

    3) Assimilation. LibreOffice would simply absorb code from Apache OOo when it suits them. As the projects diverge, this becomes increasingly less practical.

    I can see #3 happening, and they really can’t stop #2, but #1 seems unlikely except in extremely limited circumstances.

  • KeithCu 2011/06/14, 7:15 pm


    You should translate “We” as me being an unofficial spokesman of the LibreOffice community. Now that you bring it up, I will tell you that I have been encouraged to explain to IBM why this fork is wrong by people inside LibreOffice. Many of us think it is obvious that this plan is flawed. I am sorry you do not. I feel comfortable speaking for the community about things that it obviously believes.

    The 87 people signed up because you created a fork and many people are naive. They don’t understand what is going on, but they see the trademark, Apache, and IBM and assume this must be a good idea. That doesn’t justify the fork. Leaders can often find support for bad ideas. That doesn’t make the idea good. In fact this ideas is incredibly expensive because this is a 10M line codebase. Forking an average 100K codebase is nothing compared to this. This fork is 100 times more expensive than typical.

    I don’t get into whether mixed source is a good idea but I agree there isn’t a lot of good mixed source to look at, and LGPL also allows mixed source. My biggest argument is to point out that if 87 people had joined LibreOffice as of yesterday, amazing things would happen soon. Right now, I think much of your efforts will be wasted. You would still be better joining LibreOffice even if you lost a few people! You never put that question up for a vote: would you rather we all join LibreOffice? I’ll bet many would have said “yes”.

    We don’t say there should not be “any other” free software project than LibreOffice. We say there should not be any other OO-based codebase than LibreOffice. If you were wanting to make a free software Watson that plugged into LO, the LibreOffice community would not have any complaints.

    It isn’t a matter of whether it is a fork or a trunk. It is a question of whether you should have merged TDF and Apache, etc. It isn’t that you don’t have good ideas and energies. It is that you are putting them in the wrong plan.


  • Rob 2011/06/14, 7:43 pm

    @All, it sounds like the term “mixed source” is unknown or confusing to some of my readers. I’ll give you a definition from a Harvard Business School paper[PDF] on the topic: “…the expressions mixed source and hybrid source refer to a business model whereby a software firm releases an open source version of its software and derives revenue from selling proprietary complementary code. ”

    That doesn’t mean that some forms of mixed source are not possible with LGPL. Indeed they are. But there are more opportunities with a permissive license.

    @NN, Good points. Thanks.

    @Alexandre, could you explain how we’re “derailing” LibreOffice?

    As we’ve discussed previously on another post, I don’t agree with your idiosyncratic view of “freedom”.

    @Contrarian, I think you can look at other comments on this post and see what I mean.

    @Andreas, the “mixed source” option was under the “Future” heading, after the code is under the Apache 2.0 license. Would you agree the that at that point, a product like Symphony, based on Apache OpenOffice, would be mixed source, according to the definition I gave above?

    @Vexorian, Code doesn’t have a smell. The typical user doesn’t care whether the code was open source, proprietary or mixed source. The typical user cares about the price and the function, the value and the ROI. Of course, some care very much about the license, and for those who wish to remain pure have many options available to them.

    The interesting question in my mind is this: what can we do to drive new investment in this area of the market? What can we accomplish that has not been accomplished with 10 years of a corporate-led copyleft project?

    @Mike, thanks for the note!

    @Matthew, Your scarcity argument doesn’t really work, since coordination costs will outstrip incremental advantages due to incremental developers. And although maintaining an office suite is hard, it does not require a hoard. If 1,000 hardcore C++ developers showed up tomorrow asking to volunteer, I think we’d need to turn away 900 of them.

    As for collaboration, I look at this like any other form of reuse. The classic analysis looks at the cost savings from reusing code (cost to write rather than reuse minus integration cost) , the number of times the code is reused, and the incremental cost to make the code suitable for reuse.

    IMHO, having several downstream consumers reusing code modules makes it much more likely that the upfront cost to encourage reuse would be warranted. Modularization, of course, reduces the cost to integrate and tips the equation in favor of reuse. So I think ad hoc sharing of patches is not going to work well. But we might be able to identify or create specific modulate boundaries where more efficient reuse could occur.

    @Keith, so the 87 people who signed up with Apache OpenOffice are “naive” and “don’t understand what is going on”? I’m intrigued. They just participated in a two week discussion on the Apache list, a discussion in which you posted your long list of reasons to reject the project proposal. I didn’t see anyone take their name off the wiki after reading your note. Did you? So if you think that these 87 initial commiters are “naive” and “don’t understand what is going on”, then maybe you’re to blame, for being unpersuasive in your role as “unofficial spokesman” for LibreOffice. Just a thought.

  • KeithCu 2011/06/14, 9:08 pm


    LGPL is plenty permissive. Can we put someone on the task of making GPL the official license of IBM? I see copyleft is the vanguard, LGPL as a nice compromise, and Apache as useless. Can you point me to someone who has that authority?

    There were official representatives from TDF on the Apache incubation list. I wouldn’t worry about my mistakes in being a spokesman. You are making mistakes 100 times bigger. That list I posted it just the ideas I read from others. That you admit ad-hoc patch sharing will not work well means you are condemning your own plan. This plan derails LibreOffice in many ways starting with wasted discussions.

    If 1,000 people showed up, you could send them to LibreOffice. Note that the bigger problem is the required expertise. How many people on this earth have experience in recalc engines? It will take years for people to build comfort with a codebase as big as LibreOffice.


  • Alexandre Oliva 2011/06/14, 11:38 pm

    Sorry, Rob, my mistake. You’re not derailing LibreOffice. You’ve just been trying to, and failing at it.

    As for the “idiosyncratic” view of freedom, you rejected it because of a disputable parallel with another privilege you’d rather take for granted. That’s not even the beginning of an argument. But it’s good that you’ve now explicitly admitted that you’re not for freedom, but rather for privileges, even unjust and unethical ones. Acknowledging a problem is the first step to address it. I wish you the best of luck in this one endeavour.

  • Andreas Kuckartz 2011/06/15, 12:33 am

    @Rob, I still would hesitate to call that mixed-source as long as the exact source code used to generate a significant part of the binaries is not available. Otherwise most current proprietary software probably would have to be categorized as “mixed-source”.

  • Matěj Cepl 2011/06/15, 3:27 am

    @Rob I have never objected to your right to throw out of the window all your Symphony Code OOo-based code and rebase on KOffice, or resurrect from death SmartSuite (that would be really a neat trick!). I was just asking (not even questioning) reasons why you decided to split the community. If you really need explaining (and I don’t think you really need it) community in the sense “all people working on the code originating from StarOffice”, which is the only meaning which makes sense to me.

  • Italo Vignoli 2011/06/15, 10:25 am

    The Document Foundation has four official spokesperson – Florian Effenberger, Olivier Hallot, Charles Schulz and myself – and no unofficial ones. Every other person, apart from the four of us, is always speaking on his own (especially if they are not TDF members), and should never be associated with TDF. I find your words really misleading, especially as they come from an official representative of IBM inside the OOo project at ASF.

  • The Contrarian 2011/06/15, 10:38 am

    “I think you can look at other comments on this post and see what I mean. ”

    Looks to me like you are erecting a straw man and torching it to discredit TDF, without any attempt to identify actual TDF leaders who hold the opinion with which you are framing them. The only people who seem to be expressing it are self-appointed outsiders like Keith and GPL extremists like Alexandre, not people associated with TDF directly.

    So once again, I ask: First, who are these LibreOffice people you’re denouncing? And second, why are you repeating your discredited anti-trust arguments which seem intended to divide and isolate rather than promote collaboration?

  • Matthew Raymond 2011/06/15, 10:52 am

    Rob: “Your scarcity argument doesn’t really work, since coordination costs will outstrip incremental advantages due to incremental developers. And although maintaining an office suite is hard, it does not require a hoard. If 1,000 hardcore C++ developers showed up tomorrow asking to volunteer, I think we’d need to turn away 900 of them.”

    First of all, beta testing will always require the maximum number of people possible, so even if you turn people away as developers, that doesn’t mean they can’t contribute to projects in other ways. Also, while official members may need to be limited for management purposes, that doesn’t stop people from submitting patches. Also, since we’re talking about volunteers, a good number of those 1000 developers may get bored and face Real Lift (TM) issues that cause them not to make any real contribution. There’s a real difference between contributing to a project on a regular basis and signing up on a mailing list, and having fewer people to draw from doesn’t help the situation.

    At the risk of repeating myself, we’re still talking in theoreticals, since neither of us have shown any real numbers that would allow for an objective conclusion. I’d actually like to see some quantifiable facts on these issues; I’m sure they’ll be fun and interesting to look at even if they prove some of my arguments wrong. (Note that to some degree I’ve been playing devil’s advocate, as I don’t believe TDF is in serious danger.)

    The core of your own argument is a little unfair, though, when you stop to think about it. You’re essentially requiring people to prove a negative: In the absence of developers who chose to work on Apache OOo over LibreOffice, needed developers for the latter DON’T EXIST. Does the Pro-Scarcity side loose if you produce a grainy film of a guy in a LibreOffice T-shirt walking through the forest with Big Foot?

    All that said, really don’t believe LibreOffice will be hurting for developers in the short term. If anything, the lively debate in your articles’ comment sections indicates that there may be a sort term spike in development. I predict that the real impact will be a slight chilling effect on LibreOffice market share for the duration of the OOo incubation, because legacy OpenOffice.org users will be waiting for the dust to settle to decide which office suite to use.

    “So I think ad hoc sharing of patches is not going to work well. But we might be able to identify or create specific modulate boundaries where more efficient reuse could occur.”

    I think you hit it on the nail. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that OOo itself needs to essentially become a reference implementation for its underlying libraries. (Note that reference implementations are not a bad thing. Many graphics cards are just the reference implementation of a particular graphical chipset manufacturer.)

  • Russell 2011/06/15, 3:40 pm

    Hi Rob

    If that amount of share can be taken away from MS Office eventually, that would be amazing! Of cource, the graph would look better if the Open Source share was bigger!

  • j 2011/06/15, 6:01 pm

    Apache software foundation delivers source code.
    Windows users typically have neither the tools, nor the knowledge to compile source code.
    Apache open office org thus abandons the windows platform.

    Just how does this hurt MSO markets are?

  • Rob 2011/06/15, 10:55 pm

    @Keith, Obviously you don’t know the names on the Apache committer list. We have here developers from OpenOffice, Symphony and RedFlag. This includes the engineers who wrote most of the code and have 10+ years experience with it, as well as IBM and RedFlag developers who work with this code on a daily basis for their respective products. These are the experts in the code. Novell had another set of experts in this code, who worked on their Go-OO fork which has since been renamed to LibreOffice. Everyone else, outside these programmers, is coming to the code with new eyes. Nothing wrong with that. But don’t let your lack of familiarity with the names on the Apache list lead you to believe that we don’t have the majority of the experienced developers.

    @Alexandre, you call copyright a government sanctioned monopolistic privilege. I call it an exclusive property right. We’re actually saying the same thing.

    @Andreas, I provided the definition I used, from the HBS report. If you substitute your own definition then it is possible that you will come to your own conclusions. And if I call a duck a frog I can say it croaks rather than quacks. But what would be the point?

    @Matěj , Much woe has come, historically, from self-appointed leaders who say there is an imperative to reunify some larger “community” under a single political umbrella. Better, I think, to let individuals decide their affiliation.

    @Italo, what words of mine were misleading? I was quoting Keith. I questioned whether he was really representing TDF, and he insisted he was.

    @Contrarian, You are the one setting up a straw man. Show me where exactly I was imputing anything to “TDF Leaders”? I clearly wrote “LibreOffice supporters”, and said “I believe that one unstated assumption in their reasoning…”

    @Matthew, we’ll see how it turns out. But I think Apache OpenOffice wins out because it will attract more full time developers who have deep expertise with the code. This will lead the project to advance faster and lead to more functional, higher quality releases. LibreOffice has a head start, certainly. But I’d bet on the faster, more powerful horse, not the one first out of the gate.

    @Russell, I think open source will gain users in this area. I can’t think of any reason why every home user and every school should not be using an open source office suite. But for enterprise users, that is something else. If a customer needs 24×7 support, who do they call at LibreOffice? If they encounter a bug that requires an immediate patch, who at LibreOffice is going to code and test it for them and come on site to help them deploy it? If a customer needs a special adapter to integrate the editors with their workflow, who in the open source community will do that? Who is going to create a special version of the spreadsheet that has extra spreadsheet functions for the oil drilling industry? No one, of course.

    This is where people will make money, small consultants as well as big services companies. In some cases the solutions that these people provide could be made using the extensibility mechanisms already allowed by OOo, e.g., plugins. In that case, LPGL is not an issue. But in other cases, services the customers would require making source changes to the editors and rebuilding. Some will be willing to give such code back. Some will not. I think we’re at a competitive disadvantage, compared to Microsoft Office, if consultants who work with MS Office have greater rights over their own work than consultants that solve exactly the same problem, but do it with OpenOffice. I’d rather have OpenOffice be the preferred basis for customization than the one that consultants avoid.

    @J, Apache projects can release binaries as well as source. So I don’t see this being an issue.

  • Andrew Prough, CFE 2011/06/15, 11:40 pm

    Hi Rob,

    I was not a fan of this move – in a perfect world, I would have loved it if Mozilla had taken over the project. That is the one group that seems to be able to take old, difficult code and turn it into beautiful, fast and powerful software that rips enormous market share from the entrenched monopolies.

    However, now that the official incubation has begun, my hat is off to you and the dev team, and I look forward to trying your products. In the past, I’ve tried every version of OOo (and many of the derivatives – Go-oo, Oxygen, etc), every major iteration of Symphony, and had even purchased a boxed copy of Star Office from Sun. I’m a real consumer, who opens his wallet for companies that can provide a real, usable piece of business software for the Linux platform. Of course, I’m using LibreOffice right now, but I’m waiting for someone to really bring out OOo’s full potential – so I’ll be watching and rooting you on.

    One last thing – please can someone consider starting to port a workable version to Android? I’ve already got one Android tablet in the house with no decent office suite, and by any conservative estimation, there will be tens of millions of those things sold over the next few years. There’s no way MS Office will work on Android tablets in the foreseeable future – OpenOffice or LibreOffice could absolutely “own” the platform of the future if someone acts right now to develop for it. Just my 2 cents.

    Andrew Prough, CFE
    Certified Fraud Examiner
    Kyle, TX

  • LOer 2011/06/16, 2:53 am

    “But I think Apache OpenOffice wins out because it will attract more full time developers who have deep expertise with the code.”

    Well, that remains to be seen, of course. What is true today is that LO has advanced significantly (bug fixes, performance improvements, features) in the months of OOo’s stagnation at Oracle. I would guess that you will need to attract more FTDs — and quickly — just to have a glimmer of hope of catching up to the state of LO today.

    Good luck with that!

    On the other hand, given Apache’s permissive licensing, TDF will simply port any good code developed by your 87 hopefuls and leave the rest of the code lying on the cutting room floor. Of course, it doesn’t work the other way around, does it?

  • Matěj Cepl 2011/06/16, 6:09 am

    @Rob LOL

  • Italo Vignoli 2011/06/16, 8:55 am

    I find the word “… in your role as ‘unofficial spokesman’ for LibreOffice” definitely misleading, as you indirectly confirm a wrong assumption, while you could easily avoid to structure your sentence that way. In any case, we are just flattered by your careful focus on all the negatives of TDF, although we would find more coherent – given your negative opinion on TDF and LibreOffice – for you to ignore our project. If you continue to devote such a large space on your blog to TDF and LibreOffice someone can develop the (of course wrong) perception that we represent a problem.

  • Rob 2011/06/16, 2:19 pm

    @Andrew, Thanks for the note. IMHO, editors for a mobile device need to be designed and written for that form factor, not just be shrunken versions of their desktop parents. So this is more than a porting effort. We’d need to think what exactly users do with documents on such a platform. Surely they are not writing detailed multi-page reports from scratch on their smart phones? Or at least that is not the sweet spot.

    @LOer, distance = rate * time. That is all you need to know.

    @Italo, It is not my place to take sides in a dispute between a self-appointed, unelected TDF spokesperson and a self-appointed, unelected TDF Steering Committee member. This is something you should resolve on the TDF list, I think, to ensure that your public image is less fragmented.

  • Alexandre Oliva 2011/06/17, 1:59 am

    Even if we agree to disagree on whether it is a right or a privilege, it’s still power over others rather than freedom. Trying to frame copyright’s exclusive powers as freedom is analogous to framing the right to own slaves as freedom. Fortunately the fallacy in the latter has long been understood; the former, not so much.

    Anyhow, even if you disagree that copyright is not freedom, do you recognize the four freedoms identified in the Free Software definition as essential to software users? If you do, do you stand for or against those freedoms for users?

  • Orestis 2011/06/17, 10:17 am

    OK, I’m too rusty in programming to be able to help any of the two projects, but since I’ve used both of them, I’ll try to write from a user perspective:
    1) Really, what is the point of having two, totally similar projects? There are two office suits, based on the same codebase, being developed in parallel. Why, exactly? Why should all these manhours be wasted maintaining similar code, while they could be used to push a common effort forward? Just when a few (non – technical) people begun learning that there is something else, besides MS Office (pirated or legally purchased), in the world, the whole Oracle situation pops up!
    2) There are far larger issues to tackle here, like compatibility issues with MS Office, e.g. nested tables in word (yes, many governments and companies still use MS Word ).
    3) Most “common” people, are not interested in all this gibberish! They want a powerful, compatible, usable office suite, preferably with a large installation base and a notable presence, which does the work it’s supposed to do (and with a good level of internationalisation, for us non English – speakers).

    That said, I find the need for e.g. KDE and Gnome to coexist (they are different in many aspects), however I cannot perceive the reason for OpenOffice and LibreOffice to keep being developed in parallel.
    I’m sorry, but over the years I have seen too many forks taking place, for reasons that may be important to the developers, but totally irrelevant to the public. I think that FOSS and relative projects are past the point where they were only expert – relevant. Since the target is, finally, the public, I believe there should be more targeted decisions made with the public in mind, instead of further promoting fragmentation…Really, would there be a point any more in having a Netscape navigator sharing Firefox codebase?

    Just a thought, written completely from a simple user perspective (not even trying to think as a developer)

  • Rob 2011/06/17, 12:47 pm

    @Alexandre, I’m familiar with the Four Freedoms, yes, of course. Am I for or against them? I support the freedom of those who choose a copyleft free software license. I support the freedom of those who choose a permissive open source license. I support the freedom of those who choose a proprietary license. And I support the freedom of those who never publish their software at all. I think open source products of all kinds are an important part of the market, and that they should not be discriminated against. But I don’t see that freedom is advanced by mandating a particular license or flavor of license. Competition comes from choice.

    @Orestis, I think there are several possible outcomes. In one outcome, the one that you highlight, the projects continue on a parallel course. Another outcome is that the projects diverge in functionality and features, based on the talents of the volunteers working on them as well as the interests and feedback of their users. This is quite natural. Before the Microsoft monopoly we had all sorts of experimentation going on in this space. We shouldn’t think that the natural state of things is that there is a single vision of what a word processor should be and that no one may deviate from that. And a third possible outcome is that one project achieves gains in developers and users to such an extent that the other project folds and its volunteers join the remaining project.

    Of these possibilities, the most unlikely one is that the projects continue for any length of time on a parallel track. This would only happen if the two projects coordinated to a large degree, for example if LibreOffice became a downstream consumer of Apache OpenOffice, much as its predecessor, Novell’s Go-OO, was a downstream consumer of OpenOffice.org. And if that did happen, I don’t think you would call that “wasted manhours”.

  • Alexandre Oliva 2011/06/18, 7:09 am

    Rob, I think we are miscommunicating. You’re speaking of choosing licenses, which is not an activity that users of the software get to do. It’s rather imposed on them, so you appear to be speaking of something other than users’ freedom that Free Software is about.

    My question is whether you’re for or against *users*’s essential freedoms. Are you saying users should be free to choose the license the want for the software they use?

  • Rob 2011/06/18, 10:45 am

    @Alexandre, if the copyright owner makes the software available under a copyleft license, then the users have certain abilities and obligations regarding how they use that copyrighted work. And if I leave the front door of my house open and put up a sign that says “Everyone is free to sleep here but only if you help wash the dishes” then that gives people certain abilities and obligations with respect to my property. And if I leave the keys in my car with a sign that says, “Anyone can use this car for free, so long as you fill it up with gas when you are done so others have the same rights as I gave you”, then that gives certain abilities and obligations to those who wish to use my property.

    I support the ability of rights owners to make their property available under such licenses, as well as others. And I support eliminating discrimination in the market so open source software can compete alongside proprietary software. But I don’t believe, for example, that there it is a problem that users do not have the freedom to modify iTunes or Microsoft Windows without permission of the Apple or Microsoft. If a user wants freedom to modify software then they either need to write it themselves, purchase the right from a software vendor under a commercial license, find a public domain work, or find a work that is made available under an open source license.

    IMHO, the essentially freedom of the user (as a consumer) is that of choice. They can choose from a range of products, differing in features and capabilities, platform support, performance, technical support, etc., with a range of costs, include free offerings and including open source and free software offerings. The freedom of the user is that they get to freely chose from what the market offers.

    If the user is also a producer (a programmer) then they have the choice to reject everything that is in the market and write something new, and to make it available (or not) to others under a license of their choice.

    This is a contractual issue, between author and user, a civil issue. In this sphere I’d agree with Blackstone, that “liberty, rightly understood, consists in the power of doing whatever the laws permit”. If you think that achieving your vision “freedom” for the user cannot be done with existing laws, then you need to convince legislators, not me. That becomes a political question.

  • Alejandro Nova 2011/06/18, 4:52 pm

    Newbie comment: is it possible to create a LibreOffice frontend on an OpenOffice engine maintained in the Apache project?

  • Alexandre Oliva 2011/06/18, 7:51 pm

    Rob, thanks for clarifying that you’re not for users’ essential freedoms, but rather for vendors’ power to impose limits so as to deny users that freedom. Your position is indeed analogous to that of opposing abolishment of slavery, even with similar fallacies based on twisted notions of property (like ownership of slaves) and freedom (that of owning slaves and thus imposing one’s wishes on them). It doesn’t surprise me, but it’s good that it’s now clear that the freedom you’re for is the freedom to enslave, the freedom to impose your wishes so as to take away others’ freedoms. That’s quite an interesting concept…

    As for freedom of choice being the only relevant freedom for users… Choosing a master (that will then impose their choices upon you) is no freedom, but at least you’re self-consistent in your choice of fallacies. The “freedom of choice” fallacy is a powerful one, which is why I wrote about it a while ago: “The fifth freedom” http://www.fsfla.org/circular/2007-02.en#1

  • Alexandre Oliva 2011/06/18, 8:15 pm

    Sorry, I’ve tried to help picking at your insistence in comparing copyright to property, but your bringing up laws and contracts at the end of your post is just too much.

    Copyrights and copyright licenses are not contracts. Copyright law and remedies available for copyright enforcement are totally different from remedies available under contract law. If you think otherwise, try to use the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA against someone who cuts the power to your house to disable the alarms. Or to get an injunction to bring down a web site that sells cakes that are obvious copies of one you baked some day, or 3D-printed replicas of a tool you lent the site owner. Oh, and what fair use rights do you recognize I have over your house or your car? What other uses are available to me regardless of my having a license from you? (analogous to running a program, that doesn’t require permission from the copyright holder)

    So, who’s the one who needs to seek help from legislators to adjust the world to their expectations again?

  • Rob 2011/06/19, 5:01 pm

    @Alexandre, Since you bring up human slavery, please tell me how copyleft deals with that issue? A share-alike clause? I hope you see how shallow your analogy is. (And BTW, the Liberal response to slavery is to acknowledge the primacy of ownership of self.)

    You say I support the ownership rights of vendors. Indeed I do. But I also support the ownership rights of individuals, of widows and orphans who live on royalties from deceased writers, of schools endowed with royalties from published works, and of hard working people around the world who might have sold physical things, made with toil and sweat, wares fashioned of wood and iron 500 years ago, but who today engage in mental labor and create the creative works that modern society runs on. I suppose you want to grant them their “freedom”, by kicking them out in the street?

    You are correct that a license is not the same as a contract. But a license can be an element of a contract. And not everything that says “license” in it is actually only a license. For example, the typical End User License Agreement is a contract. Whether a given document is a license or a contract depends on the exact wording, as well as upon the jurisdiction. But my point remains, that these are agreements that private individuals make. They are not a matter of right, but of voluntary commitments, freely undertaken.

  • Alexandre Oliva 2011/06/19, 10:11 pm

    Copyright is hardly a voluntary commitment freely undertaken. It is rather imposed on everyone, and it limits what one can do with one’s own property.

    XXX Agreement is obviously a contract. That it has the “License” term in there to confuse and to make people think they need any permission to run a program (or read a book or watch a movie or listen to some song) is just a distraction. Don’t tell me that ever fooled you!

    Copyleft doesn’t offer power to enslave, only freedom to run, study, adapt, copy, distribute and improve, most of which copyright would otherwise take away. I.e., it lets you privately do absolutely anything you want with the software you get, and to share that with others (that’s freedom), but it doesn’t grant you power to take away others’ freedom. Does not getting permission to buy slaves sound like slavery to you?

    I’m still curious as to what fair use rights I have over your house and your car, and about any other uses I can make of them without needing a license from you, before your property right over your house and your car expires and they go into the public domain.

  • Rob 2011/06/20, 1:04 pm

    @Alexandre, There are several ways in which private property can be used by non-property owners, something akin to “fair use”. This ranges from established rights of way and easements, to adverse possession, the rights of surveyors, to the rights in some countries for anyone to hike and camp on unimproved private land. You can make some nice analogies. For example adverse possession of land is akin to the loss of the ability to enforce a trademark once it becomes generic. In some places tenancy to land is via leasehold, with a finite term, e.g., 99 years, akin to limited term for a copyright. Remember, when copyright laws were created, they were created by legislators who were informed by the laws governing the forms of property already known. So the similarities are not accidental.

    But even if none of this existed, it wouldn’t really help you argument. The fact that copyright is not identical to real or personal property does not mean that it is not its own form of property. The fact that there are fair use limitations on copyright does not negate the fact that there are other exclusive rights that remain with the copyright holder.

    Honestly, your argument doesn’t make sense at all. You are trying to fashion a logical argument for mandating something that is merely your personal preference. Let’s face the facts, the exclusive rights of copyright are universal today, except for Eritrea, Turkmenistan and San Marino. There are more countries today that stone to death infidels than countries that don’t respect copyright. Even the USSR granted authors property rights in their works.

  • Alexandre Oliva 2011/06/20, 3:05 pm

    Except for the details that copyright was not inspired by property law, and doesn’t look at all like property law, and isn’t justified on grounds of property, your argument would almost make sense. Too bad for you that these details falsify the basis of the induction.

    As for your suggestion that mental labor that moves the current society can only be paid for if their performs can sell over and over the same fruit of their labor, that begs some supporting evidence to counter the evidence that (i) those who profit from licensing are *not* those who actually perform the job and (ii) licensing revenue amounts to less than 1% of the total IT revenue worldwide, with 40% amounting to services, including development and customization of software. That’s from a report (re?)published in 2006 by ABES (sort of the Brazilian equivalent of the BSA; IBM is a member of ABES, so you might be familiar with it). I haven’t seen newer versions of that report published, and even that report was pulled back (though I can still find a news summary in the internet archive, in Portuguese), presumably because they couldn’t torture the numbers to support their lies about how proprietary software licensing was such an essential component of the IT business that it deserved special protection from the state. Very much along the lines of copyright intermediaries demanding special protection to their failing monopolies based on artificial scarcity that democratic societies no longer want to support.

  • Rob 2011/06/20, 6:43 pm

    @Alexandre, You could just as well argue that Ford should not be allowed to sell automobiles, since they could charge instead for service, that this might be a workable business model, and thus they do not deserve a government-granted exclusive property right in their articles of manufacture.

    Yes, there are many business models that are possible, but in general I’d rather let the free market discover what business models work and which don’t rather than toss out long established business models. Let producers and consumers choose what they will, and the best business models will win in the end. Several might thrive, and give consumers choice. This is a good thing.

    And remember, your copyleft license is based on, and is only enforceable today by copyright. So all the good that you claim to do only exists today because of the exclusive rights given to authors under copyright. Suppose we had no copyright. Then how would you enforce GPL? How would you prevent distribution of binaries based on modified GPL code? Contract law? But you just argued that this did not apply, that a license was not a contract. Think of this: how would you enforce GPL in Turkmenistan today?

    As to whether copyright is a form of property or not, that depends entirely on your definition of property. But that is just playing with definitions. You have not said anything that really argues that creative workers should be denied an exclusive right in their works.

  • Bruce Campbell 2011/06/20, 11:02 pm

    Here are a few comments from the perspective of an office suite user…

    My main concerns are compatibility and reliability. I don’t use linux and probably never will. The various versions are incompatible so that an application built for one version will not work seemlessly on another version. This is a deal breaker. Until the various versions of linux can collaborate and solve this they will never be players in the desktop market.

    MSOffice has about 90% of the office suite market. Any competing suite MUST read MSOffice file formats perfectly otherwise I cannot read files supplied by colleagues and vice versa.

    As a user, the arguments about the forms of licenses is of no interest. I want an application that works, saves files in an open format but still read/writes the dominant file format. I have been using OpenOffice for many years, but its inability to accurately read/write .docx and other new MS formats is a pain in the arse. Same goes for LibreOffice.

    The first opensource, openformat application suite that is reliable, has a reasonable number of features and reads/writes MS format files accurately will win me.


  • Alexandre Oliva 2011/06/21, 1:19 pm

    Hmm, free market, choice, freedom, property… Those are all nice words, too bad you’re using them in such a way as to turn them against what makes them desirable.

    For example, copyright is a state-granted monopoly. Monopolies are the antithesis of free markets. Indeed, it is well understood how monopolies distort the market, so they are supposed to be kept in check by antitrust authorities in democratic societies, lest they become a sham as in many current plutocracies.

    Through the powers of copyright and other legal and technical measures, such as denying access to source code, other market distortions can be introduced, denying consumers freedom and choice. Consumers are offered fewer choices by the monopolists through bundling of products or features, that consumers cannot unbundle because they don’t get to own what they purchase (there goes your notion of property down the toilet), and competitors don’t get to improve or otherwise build upon existing products, reducing innovation and choice.

    So, sure, by all means, let’s let the free market decide! But first we have to make it a free market, eliminating monopolies and other means to reduce freedom and choice. *Then* we can let the *free* market decide. While monopolists such as IBM can still exert power to distort the market and eliminate choice through e.g proprietary versions of Free programs, we’re not there yet.

    Now, you keep trying to frame this as a copyleftist/GPLer against Apache, even though I’ve already pointed at texts that explain how the free market for software can be protected through other means in the absence of copyright. I have nothing against Apache-licensed Free Software. What I oppose is the denial of freedom that companies like IBM seek to impose upon their customers, which is why IBM craves a permissive license for OpenOffice. I don’t oppose an Apache-licensed OpenOffice. I oppose the proprietary versions that IBM and others want to and are going to publish.

    Furthermore, I don’t dispute the legality of doing so. This is not a matter of law, it’s a matter of ethics, of respect for your neighbor. There was a time when enslaving people was permitted by law, and that was also justified by businesses, on fallacious grounds of freedom and property, on letting the market decide. There was also a time when murdering people was not permitted by law, but war businesses prevailed with ratiolates such as the imposition of “democratic free markets” (or rather the plutocracy plague). My point is that business interests that can distort, twist and change laws should not prevail over ethics, over respect for fellow human beings. Denying them freedom, controlling them through the software they use and distorting the market so as to bundle (and thus remove) choices and remove their autonomy, is the opposite of respect. It’s destructive greed. The same greed that promoted slavery and that promotes war. That’s not freedom, that’s not choice, that’s not free market, that’s not respectful of property; it’s rather a sham to take it all away. So, no, I don’t support your twisted notion of a free market. I support a free market in the original sense: that in which monopolies ideally don’t exist, but when they arise, they’re kept in check so that they’re not abused against the free market.

  • Alexandre Oliva 2011/06/21, 1:35 pm

    Oh, one point that I had already made but that apparently didn’t make it: I (unlike copyright) don’t oppose selling stuff you own. Ford could build and sell as many automobiles he wanted to. He could (but IMHO shouldn’t) dictate to buyers where, how and when they could drive the cars, and prohibit them from fixing the cars when they broke, or painting it with whatever colors they liked. And he didn’t need copyright for that.

    What he couldn’t do is build one automobile and sell that one automobile over and over, or stop others from building and selling automobiles. This is something I’d oppose. Sure, he could argue that if he couldn’t sell cheaply the same expensive-to-build car over and over, he wouldn’t be able to run a successful business. But would that be right? If construction workers demanded the right to build a single expensive house (their property) and sell it over and over, would it make sense for society to grant them this privilege, just because they might prefer this business model, and heck, it’s their work so they deserve it?

    I don’t think so. They can build houses, cars, and creative works however much they like, and sell them for whichever price they find people/businesses/consortia willing to pay. It’s not for me to justify a privilege; it’s the privilege that needs a justification to remain in place. Business interest of one particular business model to exploit society isn’t a reasonable argument to convince this very society to grant the privilege. That’s why promoters of such exploitative practices resorted to distortion of desirable concepts such as freedom, choice, property, free market and democracy to fool societies into accepting such practices. And, sadly, now that societies wake up to it, democracies are distorted and turned into plutocracies, so as to maintain the undemocratic privileges in spite of people’s democratic wishes. Clever!

  • Rob 2011/06/21, 8:28 pm

    @Alexandre, that is certainly a more verbose comment. I suppose I should thank you for your time. But your argument, though growing longer is not growing stronger.

    For example, do you find anything immoral about the ownership of land? But ownership of real property comes with the right to exclude others. But the trespasser does not diminish the land. By your argument against copyright, we should not allow allow property owners to exclude trespassers, or to charge the public for access. Surely, the right to own property is a government-granted monopoly just as much as copyright is. And more governments have removed private land ownership rights than have ever removed copyright.

    I’d summarize your argument as:

    1) Intellectual property is government invention, unlike other forms of property, and 2) authors could find another way to make a living even if they could not sell their works. 3) Therefore intellectual property should be abolished.

    To that I’d sat that your 1) is false. All forms of property are government-sanction monopolies which are not absolute. This is true of intellectual property as well as personal and real property.

    Your 2) is irrelevant. An author could also get a job sweeping floors, but simply because an author has alternative ways of making a living does not mean that central planning to determine the best business models is better than allowing the free market to decide. And it certainly does not mean that the freedom of the author should be abridged in order to grant additional rights to the user.

    And 3) does not follow whatsoever from 1) and 2). In fact, I’ve shown several times that the same argument can be used to abolish private land and other forms of property. So by reductio ad absurdum, your entire argument collapses.

  • Alexandre Oliva 2011/06/21, 10:02 pm

    Your 1) is false for many reasons. One is because you added the “unlike other forms of property”. Another is that it’s a government invention.

    Property is a society invention to deal with scarce goods.

    Copyright has nothing to do with scarce goods, it is the opposite: an artificial monopoly on non-scarce goods. Copyright was originally a censorship tool, later reframed by democratic societies. It hasn’t even been regarded as property before the 1970’s.

    The only reason you conflate property with copyright is because you can’t (or don’t want to) see the fundamental difference in the social justifications for each of them.

    Now, I won’t go into the social justifications for property. That’s not under dispute, except for your distracting attempts to conflate two unrelated issues, which appears to be your only, erhm, argument for copyright. Just because you confuse it with property and find some superficial and artificial similarities doesn’t make it so, and doesn’t make the rationales for one apply to the other: unless you can demonstrate that they do, it’s just a fallacy. Playing with definitions, as you put it. Along the same lines, I could label my freedoms as my property; then what? Why should your alleged property prevail over my alleged property? See how weak your only non-argument is?

    Oh, and I don’t oppose intellectual property: that’s not something that can be supported or opposed, for it doesn’t make sense. The topics usually referenced under this umbrella are so different and unrelated in their social justifications and in the laws that govern their operation that trying to come up with a term to denote them is as nonsensical as coming up with a term to denote shoes, bananas, airplanes and candles. Let’s call them “shbac”. Do you like shbac? Are you for or against shbac? Do these questions even make sense?

    Now, see?, I oppose copyright and patents, because the (different) social justifications for their introduction in democratic societies have been shown by recent science to be based on false premises. That’s not so for trademark laws, which still serve for consumer protection, even though they can be abused. That’s not so for trade secrets. It might be so for designs, hardware masks, I don’t know much about these. See how confusing it gets when completely unrelated topics are trated as one and the same? I don’t propose abolishing intellectual property: we can’t abolish something that doesn’t exist in the first place. I propose abolishing copyright (and patents, but that’s for another debate), and avoiding the term that misleads people into thinking of various issues in terms of something entirely different.

    The social justifications for copyright, framed some 300 years ago to *continue* royalty-granted privileges to publishers in societies that were becoming democratic, was framed as an attempt to promote literacy, based on unproven expectations that the privilege would bring about that effect; expectations that nowadays and being shown to be false! Oh, and it didn’t cover anything but books. It didn’t cover derived works. It lasted a fraction of the current duration of current copyright. What we have today is so different, so corrupted from the original goal and functioning that it shouldn’t even have the same name any more. It surely isn’t about the right to copy: it’s about *denying* the right to copy, to share, to perform and to build upon culture.

    Your argument to *support* copyright, other than the fallacious analogy with property, reeks of the same stink of the arguments from knowledge monopolists of the time, that the printing press should be banned because copists would die of hunger because nobody would want to pay for their work any more. My question is, so what? Why should we grant this privilege? We need not provide means to get any business model, no matter how useless and abusive it is, to artificially become profitable. Free market, remember? Government intervention is not to support specific business models based on copyright licensing fees, but rather to avoid abuse of monopolies (such as copyright).

    And, more importantly, regardless of copyright, why should we as a society tolerate the digital slavery that IBM wants to impose through the various restrictions (not just copyright) that make software proprietary, privative of users’ freedom, as IBM wants to do with its proprietary versions of OpenOffice? Why should we tolerate such monopolies and the non-free markets and distortions they create? That’s what *you* have to demonstrate to justify the ethics not only of copyright, but of the other means to control and abuse software users.

  • henke54 2011/06/22, 6:29 am

    Hi Rob, do you know Officeshots ; http://lwn.net/Articles/361700/ … and if so, do you know if the ASF or IBM or ‘someone else’ is going to contribute further on that project ?

  • Maxei 2011/06/22, 11:04 am

    While OpenOffice was controlled by SUN, nobody objected at that. All was “fine”, for to say something. Then, ORACLE buys SUN and uncertainty on OPENOFFICE is created. Unhappy, a group of developers fork to LIBREOFFICE as a normal reflex to protect their interests and those of the users. Next, the cat escaped out of the box: a new unexpected situation, caused by a calculated move by ORACLE. Result, OPENOFFICE is not yet dead, as was the fear of the developers. Now we have two versions, or two faces of the same coin. Which one is best? Only time will tell. And by the way, please stop your illusion to beat MS OFFICE in their own element. Just do your job the best. If LIBREOFFICE results better than any other office suite, and yet only 1% uses it, so what? Just to say something even more important, as if you don’t know it, that only a tiny fraction of the humans living in present, past and future, will inherit the Kingdom of God, by the grace on the faith in Christ Jesus?

  • Rob 2011/06/22, 4:33 pm

    @Alexandre, I’m trying to understand *your* argument. My argument is not important, since what I like is backed up by practically every government on the planet, and has been the law for many, many years. You’re the one trying to argue for something different, so you need to persuade others. So far I am not impressed.

    You say intellectual property is created by governments, whereas other forms of property are created by society. But tell me, please, who created government? You are making artificial distinctions. I’d say that all forms of property are conventional, but that today these conventions are enforced by by statute. That is the case with many things, as common law has given way to statute law over the centuries. That is just a question of efficiency of administration and the benefits of having codified law.

    Under other doctrines even forms of personal and real property were abolished. For example, the Marxist view was that means of production should be under collective ownership. That was done, for example, with farms in the Soviet Union, with tragic results. Interestingly, even the Soviets decided to protect the copyright of authors, as early as 1925. So while they were forcefully nationalizing private factories and farms, they were granting exclusive rights to authors over their creative works.

    Your observation that copyright is relatively new is merely a statement of technological progress. Before the ability to copy works, and a market for those copies, there was no need for copyright. Obviously, there was no copyright on musical performances until there was a means to record performance and a market for consumer devices capable of playing such recordings. Ditto for films, software, etc. But what history does teach us is that when new means to record creative works and new means to distribute such recordings have emerged, governments have stepped up to offer additional protections to authors.

    So other than bizarre analogies saying that the copyright is akin to slavery and murder, what do you have? Remember, every civilized nation in the world disagrees with you on this point. Even countries that denied private control to many forms of personal and real property found that they wanted to support copyright.

    @Henke54, yes I am aware of OfficeShots and the work that Sander has done with it. I wonder if we could get Apache to host a “factory” for Apache OpenOffice?

    @Maxei, You are wrong in saying that there were no disputes with Sun control of OpenOffice. Novell and Michael Meeks were constantly bickering with Sun over the project, leading to the “soft fork” of OpenOffice, Novell Edition. When Oracle took over, the Novell crew saw their opportunity and created LibreOffice. Yes, others went along as well. But the core of the development effort is Novell/SUSE, and effectively the control of the product. I don’t think they care very much about competing against Microsoft. Their focus has been around extending Microsoft technologies into Linux, from Mono and Moonlight, to virtualization to OOXML. That is an important market for them, and they benefit from their interop agreements with Microsoft. They would think twice before jeopardizing their special relationship with Microsoft by competing hard against the MS Office “cash cow”. I think this will lead LibreOffice to be mainly a Linux offering, with little penetration on Windows.

  • Alexandre Oliva 2011/06/22, 11:25 pm

    Rob, maybe you, being so well-versed in international law, can cite which countries adopted copyright as a form of property at first, or even at all, then we’ll see on whose side most countries are Also, it would be important to tell which countries decided to adopt copyright *after* research showing that monetary incentives for creative work are *detrimental* to creativity (see the works cited by Dan Pink in his TED talk for details), and which were prevented from moving *away* from copyright by threats and impositions from the WTO, which monopolists switched to when WIPO (created for the purpose of proposing, rather than imposing, international agreements on copyrights and other matters) started giving some attention to what is actually beneficial to societies.

    You might also keep in mind the fundamental distinction between property and copyright by comparing whether owners/holders have any power over the most common uses of covered goods/works. Say, copyright can’t stop anyone from running a program, reading a book, watching a movie, listening to a song. But property rights *can* and *do* enable you to prevent others from living in your house, or from driving your car, or from reading a book you bought (regardless of copyrights!), or watching a DVD or listening to a CD you bought, or loading a program from the media you purchased.

    Anyway, this entire discussion on whether or not copyright is property, or even if it should exist at all, is a distraction. My argument is not about law, but about ethics. Let me summarize:

    – from the nearly-universal moral principle, the Golden Rule, we can derive “one’s freedom ends where the neighbor’s begins”
    – from both, we can derive “if you enjoy that your freedoms were respected, you should respect others’ freedoms as well”

    Mind you, this applies regardless of whether a Free program is copyleft or not. So, you see (again), my issue is not about Oracle releasing the program under a permissive license, or Apache accepting it. It is about IBM wanting to have its freedoms respected, but not being willing to respect others’.

    Now, once the main issue is clearly stated, if you want to go back to debating copyright legitimacy, here’s the argument:

    – copyright is government intervention in the free market to establish monopolies
    – monopolies distort the market, introducing inefficiencies, reducing innovation and driving prices up
    – the purpose of copyright in democratic societies was to promote literacy
    – the mechanism to accomplish this was to introduce monopolies, as an incentive for more works to be published
    – monetary incentives have recently been shown to be detrimental to creativity, invalidating the rationale for granting such monopolies

    No justification remains for society to sacrifice the free market, choice, property of goods that carry works of authorship in them, and the natural rights to copy, share and improve works of authorship, so as to pay more and get fewer and worse works in return.

  • Rob 2011/06/23, 10:37 am

    @Alexandre, Countries with economic models as diverse as the United States and the Soviet Union were formed and quickly created laws to protect the exclusive rights of authors. Debating whether this is called “property” or not very useful. In the case of the US, the debates leading up to adoption of the US Constitution, it was refered to as “property”. For example, James Madison, the “Father of the Constitution”, describing some of the flaws in the Articles of Confederation, which preceded the Union of the United States wrote:

    This defect is strongly illustrated in the state of our commercial affairs. How much has the national dignity, interest, and revenue suffered from this cause? Instances of inferior moment are the want of uniformity in the laws concerning naturalization & literary property; of provision for national seminaries, for grants of incorporation for national purposes, for canals and other works of general utility, wch. may at present be defeated by the perverseness of particular States whose concurrence is necessary.

    Note the reference to “literary property”.

    The fact that no countries have accepted your research findings and changed legislation based on it, goes against your argument, not in favor of it.

    There certainly is a balance between “public good” and property rights. This is acknowledged in the US Constitution where property can be taken for a public use provided fair compensation is given. This is similar in other countries. In the Soviet Union, for example, under their 1925 copyright law, the State could take and publish or perform an authors work, under a system of compulsory licensing. But authors were compensated for this. And in the US, real property is often taken under the doctrine of eminent domain, with compensation given to the property owner. This acknowledges the property rights, by the fact that the government cannot and does not take property, real, personal or intellectual, without due process and fair compensation.

    To your ethical argument then. You say:

    ‘from the nearly-universal moral principle, the Golden Rule, we can derive “one’s freedom ends where the neighbor’s begins’

    For some definition of “freedom”, this might be true. For other definitions this might be false. The courts are filled with cases of where there is a dispute based on parties disagreeing on where their freedom ends. And the prisons are filled with those who erred in their judgement on where their freedom ends. Every thief, burglar, embezzler, etc. has a “difference of opinion” with a property owner on where their freedom begins and ends.

    Btw, the interesting thing here, in my mind, is not the neighbor-to-neighbor boundary of colliding freedoms, but the citizen-state boundary. That is where most of the social advances in the last 500 years have originated, by enlarging the sphere of individual freedom, by devolving the prerogatives of monarchs and tyrants.

    You also say, ‘ from both, we can derive “if you enjoy that your freedoms were respected, you should respect others’ freedoms as well”’

    Again, that is meaningless unless you first state what a person’s proper sphere of liberty is. If you say that ownership of any form of property entails exclusive rights, even of right of self in the first case, then you necessarily will abridge the freedom of their neighbor. So your ethical argument cannot really argue for or against copyright or any other form of property, since it is silent on what property rights an individual has. Your argument appears to assume your conclusion, so it is circular.

  • Mike 2011/06/23, 1:43 pm

    Mr. Weir,

    I have seen that Apache Incubator has posted a OpenOffice.org website. Will this be the platform where users get to download the next version of Apache OpenOffice.org? or the user will still use the current dowloads page located at dowload.openoffice.org?


  • Alexandre Oliva 2011/06/23, 3:12 pm

    Wow, good work twisting my argument for respecting others as you were respected into an issue regarding copyright, in spite of my clearly distinguishing the two lines of argumentation. Let me spell it out for you: “if you appreciate what others do unto you, do it unto others”. IOW, if you liked that you were given source code and any permissions required to run, study, adapt, copy, distribute and improve the software, then treat others as you’ve been treated. It’s that simple. Is it really that hard to understand? This has nothing to do with copyright or its legitimacy, or property, or even if you recognize freedoms as essential and their boundaries. It’s just plain and simple reciprocity: don’t mistreat others if you’d rather not be mistreated yourself.

    As for the other argument, I don’t know what “literary property” means in the debate, but I also know that other incumbents in the debate for the initial constitution argued that ideas were like the light emanated by candles, which could not be owned. So we’re even. And you sidestepped naming the countries that regarded copyright as property, using terms such as “ownership”, “property”, or even “owner” instead of “holder”, when copyright was first instituted, or even now. Contrast that with the much earlier term “industrial property”, that appears in patent laws in several countries. On this count, you lose, which I suppose is the reason why whether or not copyright is property now suddently became unimportant, in spite of its being the *only* argument you presented for its legitimacy, hand-wavy as it was.

    That very recent research hasn’t resulted in changed laws *yet* is no evidence that societies disagree with it. To disagree with something, you first need to know about it, and, seriously, there isn’t much of a push from mainstream media and other monopolists to make this known, for this would only give even more work to their lobbyists. Which is yet another way in which the original goals of copyright (increase literacy because only an educated people can self-govern wisely) have been corrupetd along the way.

    That issues of copyright moved from opt-in WIPO agreements to WTO impositions is clear evidence that they’re not taken as advantageous to adopters, and that we were resisting. That ACTA and TPP are negotiated secretly, without public scrutiny, is clear evidence that the public is against such measures. Public protests against ley Sinde in Spain, ley Lleras in Colombia, the Digital Economy law in the UK, and public support for the progressive copyright reform in Brazil, just to show a few examples, show how corrupted democracies are, when people who were supposed to represent their people institute laws that tend to interests of monopolist with deep pockets and against the people, and very often against the interests of their own countries. Protests in Canada and US would certainly be more common if people weren’t thrown in jail for exercising their freedom of speech rights.

    So what you mistake for evidence that the science is unconvincing is rather evidence of corruption of democracies into plutocracies. That’s why monopoliest should be avoided: when they grow big enough, they don’t only distort the market, they also distort the law, and put an end to democracy.

  • Rob 2011/06/23, 4:09 pm

    @Mike, the download site for the Apache project has not been decided yet. But Oracle is handing over the OOo domain name to Apache. So wherever we physically put the download images, we would be able to redirect requests to dowload.openoffice.org so they go to the right place.

    @Alexandre, I think business and commerce do good for society and for individuals, by bringing works and goods into the world, and providing services, that would otherwise have not existed. That is the march of progress. It may not necessarily be free. But for $0.99 today, you can buy and app for your iPhone with functionality that would have cost $100 10 years ago, $1000 20 years ago, and would not have been available at any price 30 years ago. The profit motive and free market dynamics brings consumers a choice of goods and services and competition keeps the prices low. The net effect is a vastly improved standard of living. You might want to go back to pre-copyright days, to some primitive noble state of man, when property was communal and life was nasty, brutish and short. But I do not.

    As for that oft-quoted line from Jefferson, note that he administered the patent system and although he was skeptical at first, he later had to admit its success: “An Act of Congress authorizing the issue of patents for new discoveries has given a spring to invention beyond my conception”.

    As stated before, I believe that anyone who wishes to issue their copyrighted creative works under a copyleft license should have that right. But I don’t think that this should be the only license. Permissive open source licenses are equally fine in my mind. And so are proprietary licenses. And so are unpublished works that are kept as trade secrets. The author, as owner of their works, has the clear right to make their words available (or not) under terms that they specify. If you feel morally superior for doing copyleft, then fine. I know someone who thinks they are morally superior for not eating meat. Personally I have no interest in being morally superior. It sounds quite dreadful.

    Remember, there is a lot of open source crap, under copyleft as well as other licenses, dreadful stuff that no one uses. And there are large technology companies that license software for a fee, and in the process employee engineers who pay taxes and volunteer in their neighborhoods, while the companies themselves pay taxes and contribute to public charities and universities, etc. Trying to determine what is in the “public good” is not a trivial exercise. We have elections for that kind of thing.

    As for your other point, it sounds like you are just saying that everyone who disagrees with you is corrupt, including 150+ years of Western democracies? Is that the gist of it?

  • Alexandre Oliva 2011/06/23, 5:42 pm

    I have nothing against selling goods or labor. You seem to be (once again) mistaking the dispute of a particular monopolistic and anti-free market model with dispute of free market. For your arguments that copyright (or patents) brought progress, it would be necessary to show that, in an alternate universe without them, progress would have been slower. You can’t possibly show that, so it’s just an empty claim. What’s more: there’s currently evidence that both patents and copyrights are doing more harm than good. And peoples, from whom democratic power emanates, are taking notice of that, but corrupt representatives are legislating against the peoples they represent. It doesn’t matter if they disagree with me: what matters is that they disagree with the people they’re supposed to represent, representing instead the interests of monopolists who funded their campaigns. If you don’t see the corruption in there, well… maybe you’re part of the problem. Which you may very well be, if you don’t even acknowledge the moral bankruptcy of wanting others (such as Oracle and Apache) to treat you well while planning to mistreat your customers over the same software. I think I am done now. Thanks for the debate and for offering the space in which it took place. fReegards ;-)

  • Mike 2011/06/27, 4:13 pm

    Mr. Weir,

    I have been tuned into the Apache OpenOffice.org wiki during the last few days and I was wondering if the work (development) has started on Apache OpenOffice.

  • Rob 2011/06/28, 10:26 am

    @Alexandre, I don’t think any argument about parallel universes in “progress” will advance your argument one bit. What is progress for one person might be a reversal for another person. The government did not decide that cars were better forms of transportation than horses. The free market did that. If central planners had to determine how to achieve “progress” then we’d probably still be cleaning up horseshit from our roads. I’d rather maximize freedom and let the consumers pick from a variety of goods, according to their needs and wants, in a free market. That’s enough “progress” for me.

    @Mike, we’re moving along. Most of the activity is on the dev mailing list, not the wiki.

    Information on subscribing to that list, or browsing the archives, can be found here.

  • Orestis 2011/06/28, 7:00 pm

    …back again after a while…
    Yes, I agree that there exist the three possible outcomes you mention, however I will still stand by my earlier argument, that there is a need to turn to a broader audience. If the two projects either continue in parallel (the wasted manhours I mentioned), or diverge in their features/specs, the outcome is still the same: Fragmentation! In the second case it means even less market penetration, greater difficulty for IT stuff to support, more I18n workload, etc. Might I mention that, at least here in Greece, most of the other office suites besides Microsoft and Openoffice/Libreoffice, are not even known by most people…(the I18n issue is a bit big, as well). I have, however seen (before the fork) an OpenOffice installation in a DOY branch (the US folks would call it Internal Revenue Service, I believe). So, I think that a powerful, undivided FOSS software suite, would be in a position to enter the workspaces (and from then on, the homes).
    I firmly believe that the target should be the public, not the technical “elite”. Which means, an easy to understand and convenient GUI, with as LITTLE change as possible (so that people continue their habits) and greatly improved MS compatibility. For me, the way to go would be a unified project (I won’t dive into the licensing issue for the time being).

  • Norbert Thiebaud 2011/06/30, 12:25 pm

    There is no need for an “alternate universe”, there are example illustrating your point in this universe already:


    • Rob 2011/06/30, 5:29 pm

      @Orestis, Thanks for your thoughts. I don’t think we ever can avoid or prevent OSS forks. And neither should we try, since forking is a fundamental freedom. I think that if Oracle had donated OpenOffice to Apache last year, 100% of the people now supporting LibreOffice would have joined immediately.

      For example, Michael Meeks, one of LO proponents from Attachmate, wrote a while ago about OpenOffice under Sun:

      Wrt. copyright assignment, yes it’s good to keep unified copyright assignment for (hopefully extremely rare) changes of Free software license etc. The problem lies not with the license, but the idea that a single company, with it’s own agenda, having set itself up as the sole owner of an open source project, will then always act in that project’s best interest. That just seems unrealistic, and the bigger the company – IMHO – the less likely it is. Now – a meritocratically constituted foundation, to which all code / translation etc. contributors belonged, with some truly representative governance – I’d love to belong to something like that & assign my rights to it.

      So no fundamental problem with the license, the CLA or the meritocracy of a Foundation like Apache. The issue is not that Apache is not a great place for OpenOffice, and would allow us all to concentrate on just writing code rather than trying to build a new foundation. With Apache we already have a stable 10+ year old foundation, with 100 projects, including 5 of the top 10 most used open source programs. The way I see it, Apache OpenOffice needs to catch up with around 4 months of coding, to be equal to LibreOffice. But LibreOffice needs around 10 years to get close to what Apache has achieved a foundation. The writing is on the wall.

      @Norbert, The US government has been seriously considering extending IP rights to fashion designers, beyond those they already have, e.g. patent protection of innovative fabrics like Gore-Tex.

  • Orestis 2011/07/03, 4:23 pm

    I agree that forking is, indeed, a fundamental freedom, however there is a difference between forking due to a specific need and forking just for the sake of forking. Perhaps you are right and maybe had Oracle donated Openoffice.org earlier, there would have been no problems at all. However, in my point of view, there should, at least be an effort to at least attempt to find some common ground for a merge.

    The whole conversation with Alexander, although quite interesting, is more of a political perspective and as such, I won’t be getting into it, unless this is the main reason for the schism

  • Oscar 2011/07/11, 4:57 pm

    Hi Mr Weir

    On a different note, do you know whether the Sun OOO extensions were contributed to Apache and will continue to be developed? I don’t seem to find them available for download.

  • George Cudd 2011/07/20, 8:50 pm

    Been following your ODF blog for a while. Great Posts. Followed your Twitter about WebODF at the ODF Plugfest in Germany.

    Do you think that Apache can integrate a better WebODf into the Apache Web Server as an app for all the newer browsers? Thus the pre-installed standard ODF word processor would have a much larger base almost over night. OpenOffice would then be the free standalone client side word processing app for all those documents.
    This could solve the installed user base issue.

  • Rob 2011/07/23, 6:05 pm

    @Oscar, I believe that the code that was open source via OpenOffice.org was contributed, but not any additional extensions that were part of Sun’s StarOffice commercial product.

    @George, I don’t think it makes sense to put editors into the Apache web server. Of course, there have been other, even stranger bundlings in the past. for example the inclusion of the Google Toolbar in JRE installs. I’m not a marketing person, so I don’t know if these things every really increase adoption. But as a user I know they are very annoying.

  • ethan 2011/07/25, 1:55 pm

    interesting, so the need for/impact of plurality isn’t so much in the content/structure of the project itself as it is in the licensing. it does truly look like a win-win situation. although i am personally more of an LGPL advocate, i can see how permissive licensing can ultimately help LGPL projects flourish.

    on a large enough scale, i DO think it is a zero-sum game. however, it is an open-source vs proprietary source game, and fostering a middle ground and “transitional space” via permissive licensing in a context where closed-source, proprietary models dominate will only strengthen FOSS in the foreseeable future.

  • Frank 2011/08/02, 2:10 am

    Great article and comments, Rob! I agree with all the points you’ve made and thank you for the insight.

    And you seem to be an incredibly patient person – Mr. Alexandre Oliva was talking so much nonsense that it didn’t even need to be dignified with a response, but you did anyways. It’s because of thick-headed people like him that I generally perceive these FOSS negatively. Ideology always comes ahead of common sense and practicality for these people. Such a shame there are so many of them!

  • Sco 2011/09/09, 5:09 am

    Another way of thinking?

    No need to even ‘compete’ or try to be at par with MS Office.
    LibreOffice / OpenOffice has matured through the years. Just need to iron some things out.
    It just needs to keep working smoothly, and keep up with user needs, and users will be gradually shifting to using Open/LibreOffice.

    Keeping the look updated helps too. (But hopefully no ‘ribbon’ nonsense similar to msO.)

    Once people are familiar with the ins and outs of OpenOffice functions (helped by developers making it user friendly), they can be very efficient in using it. And actually enjoy doing so.

    It’s also highly probable that LibreOffice and OpenOffice are already setting standards/features for MS Office to copy anyway.

    Plus there are people alive today whose first Office suite is/are or could be Open/LibreOffice.

    And remember the most important stuff for the office suites, things like accurate formula computations in Open/Libre Office Calc.

    OpenOffice and LibreOffice can and probably will help each other. Or they can both contribute upstream (if an ‘upstream’ is established). Food for thought.

  • Amit M 2011/12/13, 10:48 am

    All of the developers working on one code base would have been much better, obviously. Openoffice and Libreoffice are fighting for the 5% – the other 95% are either entrenched Windows users or pirates who don’t care that MS Office costs so much.
    Forks and the multitude of distributions and desktop environments do not provide more good choices, they just mean that instead of working together everyone is wasting their effort and confusing the market.
    A non-copyleft license is not helpful, actually harmful – the lifeblood of Linux is copyleft – if you let people make their own code and not give it back nothing good ever happens.
    Why did IBM take this path and support Apache Openoffice instead of giving their work to Libreoffice? Why did they not give their work on Symphony to Libreoffice? Who at IBM is favoring non-copyleft, and why? If the decision were made by the IBM programmers instead of the IBM lawyers, they would have probably taken the other “fork.”
    If the IBM-supported Openoffice becomes better quality than Libre (and it could happen, because they have many good developers to throw at it), that will be a really bad thing, because the “truest” Linux distributions will not include it. For the best version of open/libreoffice to exist mainly on Windows and to be excluded from the truest Linuxes would be a shame and would discourage people from switching to Linux.

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