Yesterday, Oracle finally gave up control of OpenOffice and handed it to the Apache Software Foundation. Compared to Oracle being in control, this is a very good thing. However, the reality of the situation is that the Apache Foundation is not the best place for OpenOffice. Why? Because there is The Document Foundation.
The Document Foundation
The Document Foundation is a foundation set up by the former OpenOffice contributors after Oracle took control of OpenOffice. It is where almost all the OpenOffice contributors from the pre-Oracle period went to. Right now it is a thriving community which has forked OpenOffice and are developing an office suite on their own. In short, The Document Foundation is what the OpenOffice community was before Oracle took over. Who else is better equipped to take care of OpenOffice than them?
Why The Document Foundation is a better choice than the Apache Foundation
Another point to consider is the developers who will be taking care of OpenOffice. With OpenOffice in the hands of the Apache Foundation, they have to get a new team of developers to take on the development of the project. I am not saying that the Apache Foundation is not capable of doing that. But, for a completely new team to take over a project the size of OpenOffice can be very tough. In fact, that was what happened to Oracle after almost all of the previous developers left. But, The Document Foundation has most of the previous OpenOffice developers. After forking OpenOffice, they are developing one of the best office suite around - LibreOffice.
Talking about LibreOffice, it has almost killed OpenOffice. Most of the major Linux distributions which used to ship OpenOffice have dropped it in favor of LibreOffice. OpenOffice is no longer a happening project and hardly anyone cares about it now. The best thing for OpenOffice would have been to merge back with LibreOffice. That would ensure that OpenOffice does not die out as a neglected parent while its fork, LibreOffice thrives.
The Apache Foundation and The Document Foundation are very different in many aspects including the community structure, licensing of the projects etc. Right from the beginning, The Document Foundation has been inviting Oracle to join them and donate OpenOffice to them. By giving OpenOffice to the Apache foundation instead, Oracle has made sure that OpenOffice will not merge with LibreOffice.
What will happen to OpenOffice?
So what will happen to OpenOffice under the Apache Foundation now? For starters, OpenOffice will be an Apache Incubator Project. Once it gets passed that stage, it will become a Top-Level Project with its own committee guiding it.
But what about the future of OpenOffice, which was once a symbol of what open source software can achieve? Will it ever be able to become that important project that it once was? Let us see. LibreOffice (or rather The Document Foundation) has the community - which is the most important thing of any open source peoject, they have all the previous OpenOffice developers - the people who were responsible for OpenOffice becoming what it was, and they have the support of all the major Linux distributions - which is very essential for the success of such a project. What does OpenOffice have? Well, other than the name, OpenOffice has absolutely nothing. It is not difficult to see why the future of OpenOffice does not look very bright.