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No OpenOffice.org Fork, if Sun Relinquishes Control

Posted in Fork, LGPL, Novell, Office Suites, OpenOffice, SUN at 10:09 pm by Shane Coyle

According to a recent blog entry from Paula Rooney, Michael Meeks – the developer at the center of the most recent OpenOffice.org fork rumors – has denied that he intends to fork the project at this time, saying that forking is "not an ideal outcome".

However, Meeks is not ruling out an eventual forking of OOO if Sun refuses to give up its control of the project and establish an independent non-profit foundation to govern it.

Concerns about a possible fork arose because the Go-OO build, an OpenOffice implementation maintained by Meeks and others, decided to include a feature that Sun rejected for inclusion in the next OpenOffice because the developer refused to sign Sun’s contributor agreement.

Meeks said in an interview that it is customary for Go-OO to include new technologies and that the latest build should not be viewed as a fork. But he hinted that a fork is not out of the question if Sun doesn’t loosen its grip on the OpenOffice project.

“It’s clear that if Sun continues to refuse to include changes under their own license then you will see a growing set of changes that can’t be included in OpenOffice, and then we’d see that delta increasing over time. Eventually, users can understand they can get a better OpenOffice than at OpenOffice.org,” Meeks said this week during a telephone interview.

It would appear, that according to Simon Phipps, Sun is at this time content with the changes that they have made in recent weeks – including the replacing of the Contributor Agreement and creation of a Community Advisory Board. Phipps goes on to question Meeks’ motivation for mounting this challenge now, after having been an historical supporter of the contributor agreement.

In his blast at Novell’s Meeks, Phipps points to great strides made by OpenOffice over the past several months, including new participation by Red Flag 2000 and IBM.

“In the midst of all this, I see my friend Michael Meeks has been challenging Sun in a creative way – it even made Slashdot today. I remember the days when Michael used to enthusiastically encourage OpenOffice.org community members to sign the contributor agreement, as recently as last December…,” Phipps wrote on his blog recently, questioning Mr Meeks’ motives. It’s a shame Michael has chosen now – a turning point in OpenOffice.org and a moment when Sun has radically improved the SCA in response to broad feedback from many communities – as a time to mount a fresh challenge to Sun that by implication also harms OpenOffice.org. And when you distill out all the details, that’s what this turns out to be even by Michael’s admission – a competitive issue, not a community one.”

So, it appears that the line in the sand has been drawn between Sun and Meeks, yet we still have not heard anything in an official capacity from Novell. I would expect there to be quite a bit more from both sides on this highly contentious subject in the coming weeks leading up to the first meeting of the Community Advisory Board, and perhaps beyond.

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  1. Anonymous said,

    October 14, 2007 at 2:13 am


    What happened to the “Not-Evil-Saturday” story?

  2. Sam Hiser said,

    October 14, 2007 at 9:27 am


    After years of Sun’s recalcitrant attitude & refusal to relinquish its covetous control of the copyright- & code commit-processes — in other words, refusal to run OpenOffice.org as an open source project — it’s high time the world looked elsewhere for a reliable & fast-improving alternative office suite solution which — in addition to being wide open to the commons for contribution — respects the natural imperative for a true universal document format which is not compromised by unbreakable ties to its application.

    Micheal is right; Simon is wrong…morally, practically, on any basis you like.

  3. Shane Coyle said,

    October 14, 2007 at 10:15 am


    I apologize, Roy is on a well-deserved vacation, and I forgot about "Do-No-Evil Saturday".

  4. John Drinkwater said,

    October 14, 2007 at 12:12 pm


    Shane doesn’t write the Not-Evil-Saturday stories, Roy does.

  5. Alice Maris said,

    October 14, 2007 at 11:46 pm


    I’ve watched OpenOffice go from a starving project with no users, to a global phenomenon, and we all ought to thank its current steward for staying the course. Alternatively, Novell’s taken innumerable global phenomenon and turned them into starving projects, and signed an intellectual contaminant into its product stream.

    Personally, I trust Novell as far as I can throw them, and despite years of proprietary resistance, I give enormous credit to Sun for not only hopping the clue bus, but adding some gas along the way.

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