Open-Source Development: The History Of OpenOffice Shows Why Licensing Matters

Richard Hillesley | TechRepublic | October 2, 2012

The course of open-source software does not always run smoothly, especially when the development of software becomes entangled with broader corporate strategies. Indeed, the complicated history and confusions of OpenOffice development, and the divisions between LibreOffice and Apache OpenOffice, provide a salutary lesson.

They show that however fine the intentions of  a governing organisation such as Sun Microsystems might be, consistency and transparency of governance and licensing are vital to the long-term health and success of any free and open-source project.

When Sun Microsystems released the code of open-source office productivity software suite StarOffice to the open-source community in 2000, the company promised to create a self-governing foundation and to hand over the code to the control of the community. But ownership of the copyright on the code was retained by Sun, and governance of the project was kept inhouse.