One of the best open source alternatives to Microsoft Office, Apache OpenOffice might be shut down.
But this doesn’t come as a surprise, not to me and not should it be to anyone who keeps a keen eye on open source world. We all knew that this day would come one day. It’s the writing on the wall which many of were afraid to look at. Until now.
Dannis Hamilton, vice president of Apache Open Office, finally sent an email indicating its retirement plan. We’ll see the proposed ‘retirement plan’ but before that let’s see the history of OpenOffice, why OpenOffice is dying and why it not surprising or shocking.
OpenOffice: The glorious past
OpenOffice has seen better days. OpenOffice was born as Star Office in 1985. Sun Microsystems bought it in the year 1999 and released its source code the next year. This is how OpenOffice came into existence, a free and open source office suite.
OpenOffice continued to rise and gathered more and more users. But it all changed after the acquisition of Sun Microsystem by Oracle.
Within a year, Oracle discontinued the project and donated it to Apache Foundation. This was the beginning of the downfall of OpenOffice.
Apache Foundation renamed it to Apache OpenOffice and continued to support it.
Just to add, just before Oracle got the ownership of this project, it was forked into LibreOffice, a productivity suite that is being actively developed.
Why the demise of OpenOffice is not shocking!
It’s not murder, it’s euthanasia (or mercy killing). We have seen the pain and suffering of this premier open source project. Once backed by mighty tech giants like Sun Microsystem, OpenOffice is now reduced to just 6 developers and maintainers.
And that reflects on the development of this project. The last update to OpenOffice was in October last year. That’s almost a year. In fact, in last two years, it was updated only three times. At the same time, LibreOffice was updated 14 times in the year 2015 itself.
You can imagine that a software not updated in such a long time is not a good sign, for usability and for security.
As most developers left the project (several to join LibreOffice), Apache OpenOffice now has only half a dozen volunteers. No wonder that Dannis cites it one of the reason of the possible shutdown:
“It is my considered opinion that there is no ready supply of developers who have the capacity, capability, and will to supplement the roughly half-dozen volunteers holding the project together…”
The source code would remain available for people interested in using it, but the means of committing changes won’t be available. Installable binaries would available via an archived system but there will be no new updates at all.
In addition to that, other parts of the project would have to be shut down. That means public discussion mailing lists and mailing lists for developers and its social media accounts.
The project management committee would be disbanded as well. However, Apache would maintain an e-mail address to entertain requests to make use of the OpenOffice brand.
As I said before, this was the writing on the wall. In past few years, it had become obvious that the project won’t survive for long.
As the plug is being pulled, I am not going to shed a tear over the demise of the project that was once the pride of open source world. I close my eyes, I pay my respect to OpenOffice and I look forward to LibreOffice to continue the legacy of OpenOffice.