Inside the OpenOffice.org coup

A coup without bottom-up support tells the community the new boss is the same as the old boss.

That noble Roman

Roberto Galoppini reports today from inside the coup against OpenOffice.org by The Document Foundation (TDF) and, sad to say, it seems to have indeed been a coup.

As opposed to a revolution.

The story, as he pieced it together from e-mail archives, involved a small number of (mainly European) members of the OpenOffice.org Community Council, deciding nearly a year ago to break away.

These steering committee members sought first to have Oracle give up its claims on OpenOffice.org then, in Roberto's view, treated other community members as second-class citizens.

Despite being a founding member of PLIO.IT, a very early OpenOffice organization, Galoppini was only notified of what was happening two days before it happened, and then it was given him as a fait accompli.

This is not good.

A successful fork must have either corporate or broad community support -- preferably both -- or it's going to fail as the founders become exhausted.

One result is that key issues, like copyright assignment, have yet to be fully aired. The founders seem to be against it, but there can be sound reasons for contributors assigning copyright to a group. Given the software's heritage as a corporate-run project, this could have at least been discussed.

All this puts the purge of TDF leaders from the OpenOffice Community Council, which I reported on a few weeks ago, into a different light. The shock of TDF leaders at being asked to leave by Oracle employees seems feigned, the indignation of the Oracle employees more genuine.

At the end of the day what matters is the software. If Oracle, through OpenOffice.org, continues to push the software forward, under the same license as before, while work at TDF slows or stops, then Oracle is going to win.

In his post on this Galoppini notes the involvement of Novell and Red Hat employees with TDF. Their employers need to decide whether they are going to step up to the plate with serious support or this fork may be going nowhere.

It's true that revolutions are messier than coups, but a coup without bottom-up support tells the community the new boss is the same as the old boss.