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Oracle Continues Its Destruction of Free/Libre Software, But Projects Like LibreOffice, MariaDB, and Ceylon Show That Popular Free/Libre Software Just Can’t Die

Posted in Free/Libre Software, Java, Office Suites, OpenDocument, OpenOffice, Oracle at 4:45 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Larry Ellison: “If an Open Source Product Gets Good Enough, We'll Simply Take It.”
Larry Ellison: “We Have to Exploit Open Source.”

Larry Elllison on stage
Photo from Oracle Corporate Communications

Summary: Oracle’s latest casualty is commercial support for Glassfish JEE Server, but replacements for Java continue to multiply

Oracle has hardly been friendly towards FOSS, and that’s putting it very politely. Oracle actively attacked some FOSS (like Android) and shelved some important FOSS projects like OpenOffice.org, eventually turning it into Apache OpenOffice and then turning its back on it. In addition, Oracle’s abandonment of Java products seems evident [1] (Glassfish JEE Server this time), leaving the likes of Red Hat to bridge the gap [2], joining the likes of Google with Dalvik. Oracle has been a disappointing steward of Java and Java-based projects, so when it comes to branching off in different directions, that’s just fine. As for MySQL, MariaDB — like LibreOffice — helps keep it somewhat safe from Oracle’s neglect [3] (a lot of applications out there still depend on MySQL [4,5]) and there are some big new storage players [6,7] which jeopardise Oracle’s core business (MySQL was an Oracle rival, but so was Postgres, well before Apache Cassandra and and Apache Hadoop).

It remains hard to explain why Oracle turned its back on OpenOffice.org like this. Back in the days Oracle put its weight behind ODF and even opposed OOXML, which is a growing problem [8]. Now we have two options [9], both the IBM-backed [10] Apache OpenOffice and LibreOffice, which is mostly driven by users’ needs (see [11] from Charles-H. Schulz), has frequent releases [12], and is focused on innovation [13], not profit. There are smaller players in this lucrative area of office suites, both Free/libre [14] and proprietary [15], but none is as important as what used to be StarOffice. Nothing other than OpenOffice.org could really challenge and replace Microsoft Office in businesses (from proprietary lock-in to freedom and standards).

The important thing we can learn from all this is that when software is free in the licensing sense it is extremely difficult for aggressors like Oracle to kill. The licence of the code protects the software; developers can take the code and continue the work elsewhere, as long as there is enough demand to drive development. There is another lesson to be learned here. For a business, it is a lot less risky to choose Free/libre software as chances of discontinuation are fairly low, especially when the software is well-established (like Linux and Apache).

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Oracle abandons commercial support for Glassfish JEE Server
  2. Red Hat ships piping hot Ceylon to curry favor with Java-weary devs

    After more than three years of development, Red Hat has released version 1.0.0 of Ceylon, its homebrewed, open-source programming language that’s designed to be a replacement for Java.

    Early on, Ceylon was billed as a “Java killer” by some, but lead developer Gavin King has denied that doing away with Oracle’s platform was ever his intent. In fact, even the earliest builds of Ceylon produced code that ran on the Java Virtual Machine (JVM).

    Instead, King sought to create a new language that could run alongside Java but would be based on more modern class libraries and would have a syntax more amenable to defining user interfaces – something King believes there is “no good way” to do in Java.

    In its current form, King describes Ceylon as a “cross-platform” language. The 1.0.0 release, announced at the Devoxx conference in Antwerp, Belgium on Tuesday, includes compilers that can output either Java bytecode or JavaScript.

    That allows the same Ceylon source modules to run on either the JVM or a JavaScript execution environment such as Node.js, interchangeably. Or, a Ceylon program can be written to target only one of Java or JavaScript, in which case it can interoperate with native code written in that language.

  3. Oracle’s nemesis MariaDB releases sleekest seal yet to beta

    The news came out at the Extremely Large Databases (XLDB) conference in Stanford, California on Wednesday, one month after El Reg reported that Google had assigned one of its engineers to the MariaDB Foundation. News of the swap was not an official announcement by Google, it came out during a presentation by Google senior systems engineer Jeremy Cole on the general state of the MySQL ecosystem.

  4. MySQL Performance and Tuning Best Practices
  5. MySQL Security Best Practices
  6. Cassandra 2.0: The next generation of big data

    Apache has just released Apache Cassandra v2.0, the latest version of its popular highly-scalable, big data distributed database.

  7. Hortonworks to seek IPO within two years, CEO says

    The Palo Alto, California-based company is a Yahoo Inc spin-off founded in 2011 by a team of software engineers working on Yahoo’s Apache Hadoop implementation.

  8. Shall we waste twelve more years promoting Free office suites instead of open office formats?

    Twelve (TWELVE!!!) years ago I asked OpenOffice users “Are you advocating OO correctly”. Six years ago I said the same things in a different format. A couple of weeks ago, I came across a perfect proof that that kind of advocacy IS right, but so far has been never practiced enough.

  9. Apache OpenOffice vs. LibreOffice

    Apache OpenOffice and LibreOffice are the modern descendants of OpenOffice.org. For the last few years, almost all Linux distributions have included LibreOffice as their default office suite. However, in the past eighteen months, OpenOffice has reappeared, newly organized into an Apache project, and free software users now have the choice of two full-featured suites instead of one.

  10. IBM Support for Apache OpenOffice

    The latest, and most significant, enabler of enterprise use of Apache OpenOffice is our IBM Support for Apache OpenOffice offering. Although individual end-users and even small businesses can easily deploy Apache OpenOffice on their own (75 million downloads testifies to that), larger enterprises with more complicated and demanding needs benefit from the kind of expertise that IBM can provide. So I’m glad to see this offering available to fill out the ecosystem, so everyone can use and be successful with Apache OpenOffice, from individual university students, to small non-profits, to large international corporations.

  11. Users: the Final Frontier?

    A few weeks ago we started to have a quite interesting discussion on the LibreOffice project’s marketing mailing list on how to engage users in our community. Readers of Moved by Freedom – Powered by Standards may remember that during the LibreOffice Conference of 2012 in Berlin, the marketing strategy had already defined that the mission of marketing for the LibreOffice project was not to market a product but rather to grow the size of the community of contributors, improve the communications and raise the brand awareness of LibreOffice. This strategy was clearly reaffirmed during our second marketing workshop in Milano in September 2013.

  12. LibreOffice 4.2 Alpha 1 To Bring Many Improvements

    LibreOffice was bumped today for version 4.2.0 Alpha 1, the next major update to the popular open-source office suite.

  13. Forget about meeting customers’ expectations: Innovation comes first

    … and so does pesky market research. The IT bubble has been spreading the word about this Forrester report and as you can imagine it got many of us wondering what it really means. Well it got me wondered about a few things too, but perhaps not for the same reasons others twisted their heads around..

  14. AbiWord: The little word processor that could
  15. Pages 5: An unmitigated disaster

    It certainly is not intended for people who, like me, appreciated the combination of simplicity and power that was the hallmark of previous versions of Pages. I realize that it must be hard to maintain the right balance between simplicity and power when you try to add more features, more customizability, and so on. But Apple’s engineers appear to have chosen to keep the emphasis on “simplicity” at the expense of “power”. They have not just neglected to add features to bring the feature set of the application closer to that of a word processor like Microsoft Word. They have actually removed many features for no apparent reason other than to bring the application in line with its iOS counterpart, which is, inevitably, much less powerful.


    I guess that, in an era of mobile, touch-based computing, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for Apple engineers to understand that document writers spend most of their days with their hands on an actual keyboard, and providing easy access to functionality via the keyboard is particularly important for them.

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