Facing closure, OpenOffice.org begs for survival

As the latest team behind the free productivity suite cries, 'OpenOffice.org can't be allowed to die!'

The OpenOffice.org office productivity suite has had something of a wild ride ever since it fell into Oracle's hands with the acquisition of Sun early last year, and now it looks like that ride may be coming to an end.

Oracle divested itself of OpenOffice.org in June -- donating it instead to the Apache Software Foundation Incubator -- and now the project is in trouble. Today, the Germany-based team now keeping it up plans to launch a major fundraising campaign with the simple goal of keeping the software alive.

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"The brains behind OpenOffice.org want the open source software to continue as an association and to finance the continued development of the associated programs and user support through donations," reads the group's announcement, adding that the end of OpenOffice.org would be disastrous.

Whether that happens, however, now depends on the donations the group brings in to keep the effort going. Toward that end, the project team will this week launch a new website with multiple donation options, according to a report in the Register. In addition, the organization will reportedly be seeking a major sponsor as well.

"Naturally it was a shock for all of us when Oracle announced that it would no longer support us," said Stefan Taxhet, CEO of Team OpenOffice.org e.V. "But we knew immediately: OpenOffice.org can't be allowed to die!"

It remains to be seen, of course, how many users agree. The software does still see an average of 1.5 million downloads per week, the project team says.

On the other hand, LibreOffice -- the result of a fork of the project last fall -- is doing extremely well, and in many eyes has made OpenOffice.org redundant. Having just celebrated its first anniversary, LibreOffice already boasts some 25 million users around the world. It has also become the default productivity software included in most major Linux distributions, replacing OpenOffice.org. Numerous big-name sponsors have pledged their support to LibreOffice as well, including Google.

In effect, then, this fundraising campaign will serve as a test of how much the community wants OpenOffice.org to continue. If enough donations pour in to keep the project going, the OpenOffice.org team aims to shift the way it plans development. "We have been going after the competitors for too long, instead of really focusing on the needs of the user," explained team member Martin Hollmichel. "Now that we are free we can change that."

If, on the other hand, there doesn't turn out to be enough support, business and individual users around the globe will eventually have to make the transition to LibreOffice or another alternative. Fortunately, LibreOffice is still extremely similar to OpenOffice.org, promising a minimal learning curve.

Only time will tell which of these scenarios plays out. In the meantime, though, users of OpenOffice.org will want to watch closely to see how things develop, knowing that a transition may ultimately be required.

This story, "Facing closure, OpenOffice.org begs for survival" was originally published by PCWorld.