Rob Weir: As you have probably heard, Oracle has followed through with their earlier promise to “move OpenOffice.org to a purely community-based open source project.” OpenOffice is moving to Apache. I’d like to offer you my own thoughts on this new opportunity and what it means. I recommend also the insights of my colleagues Ed Brill and Bob Sutor.
I’ve now read multiple IBMers praise Apache while carefully dancing around the Document Foundation / LibreOffice elephant in the room by not even mentioning it. What kind of expectations do IBMers have for the relationship between LibreOffice and Apache OpenOffice? Or what expectations do you personally have if IBM activities in this area can’t be talked about more generally?
I am an IBMer who doesn’t work in the same area as those that work on this product, but over the next few months I expect to be helping those with activities in this area learn how to participate in an open and collaborative environment. While I am an employee of IBM, I do not speak for IBM. The following are my thoughts.
I am an unabashed fan of the Apache License. Frankly in cases where it is not appropriate, I would prefer movement towards MIT rather than AFGL. Make no mistake about it: I believe that this fundamentally is a license question.
The Document Foundation / LibreOffice folks now have a historic opportunity to change their license to the Apache License. If they were to do so, there would be frictionless exchange of code between the various groups. But instead we have people talking about the virtues of CopyLeft.
What Sun originally established as a two caste system. Those that could afford it could get a liberal license. Those that could not were provided a restrictive license. IBM was clearly in the former category, and built a proprietary product. The efforts IBM put into that were not available to be built upon by the community.
This will change. Some portion of that effort will be diverted into producing a product that everybody can build upon. Not just those who wish to build proprietary products, but also by those in Libre Office, the Document Foundation, RedOffice, EuroOffice, BrOffice, NeoOffice, and countless others that have yet to be formed or even contemplated.
“Make no mistake about it: I believe that this fundamentally is a license question.”
Sure this is open source vs. free software issue. Open source (Apache 2 license): you can take a code and do what ever you like to do with it, even relicense the code. Free software (GPL license): when ever you take code that someone else has written, you can do with the code what ever you would like, but you have to show all of the code you have changed/added.
“The Document Foundation / LibreOffice folks now have a historic opportunity to change their license to the Apache License.”
This is not so simple. In case of OpenOffice Oracle was copy right owner of WHOLE code, because if someone liked to contribute the code he/she had to sigh a copy right agreement to give all copy rights to Oracle. So now Oracle owns the code and can relicense the code in what ever way it likes. But on the other site, to contribute the code to LibreOffice you don’t need to sign any kind of agreement
with TDF, so anyone that contributes the code is a copyright owner. So changing license to Apache License means EVERY contributor MUST agree of relicensing the code he/she has contributed under GPL. If he/she does not agree, then this part of code must be eliminated from the product before it could be joined with OpenOffice.
“But instead we have people talking about the virtues of CopyLeft.”
There are two kind of developers: paid one (like IBMers), they don’t really care about the code, they have written the code because they have been paid for. On the other site there are hobbies contributors (developers, translators, documentation writers etc), they do care what happens with the there contribution, because they have spend there spare time to do this staff. And if someone has invested huge amount of spare time to translate the program and then some organization like IBM takes that translation and improves the code and makes the code proprietary and sells the product, how does this free hobbies benefits? Don’t you think that this kind of people thinks there were stolen of there spare time? So the virtues means who gets the benefit.
I understand why IBM likes Apache license. It is simple, you get developers who write the code for free no money, then you take the code, make some polishing, marketing it and sell the product.
“Some portion of that effort will be diverted into producing a product that everybody can build upon.”
The question is what is “base product”. And how much will contributors contribute back to the main product itself. If they don’t much (my humble opinion) then the code over time will get fragmented in such a way that there will be impossible to colaborate.
Many words have been expended on this situation. I don’t have an awful lot to add about the project side of things: I think it’s immensely sad that OpenOffice.org is being forked again (this is much more clearly a fork than LibreOffice was), but...