In a surprising announcement, Oracle has said that they are donating OpenOffice.org to the Apache Foundation. Luke Kowalski, Vice- President, Oracle Corporate Architecture Group, said that their decision to give away the OpenOffice.org code to The Apache Foundation is a part of their commitment to the open source communities.
OpenOffice.org and The Apache Foundation
While it is a good thing that the OpenOffice.org assets are in the hands of the open source community, questions will be asked as to why Oracle choose the Apache Foundation. Regarding that decision, Luke Kowalski had this to say:
Donating OpenOffice.org to Apache gives this popular consumer software a mature, open, and well established infrastructure to continue well into the future. The Apache Software Foundation’s model makes it possible for commercial and individual volunteer contributors to collaborate on open source product development.
Jim Jagielski, president, The Apache Software Foundation, has welcomed Oracle’s move to donate OpenOffice.org to the Apache Foundation:
We welcome highly-focused, emerging projects from individual contributors, as well as those with robust developer communities, global user bases, and strong corporate backing.
Jagielski also added that OpenOffice will be initially an Apache incubator project. Upon maturing into a Top Level Project, a committee will be formed to guide the project on its day-to-day working.
Why Apache Foundation and not The Document Foundation?
If you recall, after Oracle acquired OpenOffice.org, many of the leading OpenOffice.org contributors formed The Document Foundation. The Document Foundation requested Oracle to join them and donate the name “OpenOffice.org” to the community. Oracle snubbed them and asked them to leave OpenOffice.org instead.
They left OpenOffice.org, along with most of the other contributors, and went on to fork OpenOffice.org to form another office suite LibreOffice. LibreOffice has been very successful and most of the major Linux distributions have switched over to LibreOffice as the default office application suite.
So, considering the history between The Document Foundation and Oracle, it is not surprising that Oracle decided to ignore The Document Foundation and gave OpenOffice.org to the Apache Foundation.
A problem with OpenOffice.org becoming an Apache project will be the licensing issue. Apache projects uses the Apache Public License while OpenOffice.org uses the GNU Lesser Public License (LGPL) version 3. The LGPL and Apache Public License are not compatible with each other in matters regarding distribution with software under other license and distribution of derivatives.
The GNU Lesser Public License version 3 allows for the distribution of the software under LGPL with software under other license with certain restrictions. The distributor has to provide the source code of the software under LGPL along with the modifications made to it. The Apache Public License allows the distribution of the software without any such restrictions.
Regarding the derivative works, the LGPL allows their distribution only if the derivative is also under LGPL or GPL. Under the Apache Public License, the derivatives are free to choose any license as long as ‘Apache’ is not included in its name.
It will be interesting to see how this gets sorted out.