Monday, 05 September 2016 08:44

OpenOffice floats possibility of shutting down

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The OpenOffice project has raised the possibility that it could shutter its doors, with Dennis Hamilton, the vice-president of the group that runs it now, having opened a discussion recently on how retirement of the project would look like.

OpenOffice is being run by the Apache Software Foundation which is better known for being behind the Apache Web server that runs most of the world's websites.

The Apache OpenOffice project began when Oracle, the owner of OpenOffice following its acquisition of Sun Microsystems in 2010, decided that it would hand over development to another entity. OpenOffice was originally known as StarOffice; it was taken over by Sun in 2000 and renamed.

Oracle's purchase of Sun was primarily geared towards getting control of Java; it had little or no interest in other open source projects owned by Sun.

Before OpenOffice was handed over to the Apache Foundation, a group of developers forked the codebase in September 2010 under the name LibreOffice.

LibreOffice made its first release in January 2011. Since then, it has gone from strength to strength, with 14 version updates in 2015 alone. In sharp contrast, the most recent OpenOffice update was in October 2015. That was also its only update for that year. The tardiness of OpenOffice development was highlighed in 2015 with reports that a five-month-old bug was yet to be fixed.

Hamilton proposed a shutdown of OpenOffice as one option if the project could not meet the goals it had set. "My concern is that the project could end with a bang or a whimper. My interest is in seeing any retirement happen gracefully. That means we need to consider it as a contingency. For contingency plans, no time is a good time, but earlier is always better than later," he wrote.

In the event of a shutdown, he said the codebase would have to remain accessible for downloads but no means should be provided to commit any changes.

Source code releases, patches and binaries should all be retained in the existing archive system but there should be no further additions.

Hamilton said all mailing lists would have to be shut down but archived and left accessible. The blog and Twitter and Facebook accounts would have to be closed.

LibreOffice has been adopted as the default office suite by most Linux distributions. But OpenOffice has a fair number of Windows and Mac users. Project statistics show more than 29 million downloads in 2015, and a total of more than 160 million downloads since May 2012.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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