A couple of weeks ago I visited my mother back home in Norway. She had gotten a new laptop some time ago that my brother-in-law had set up for her. As usual when I come for a visit I was asked to look at some technical issues my mother was experiencing with her computer. Anyway, one thing I discovered while looking at these issues was that my brother-in-law had installed OpenOffice on her computer. So knowing that the OpenOffice project is all but dead upstream since IBM pulled their developers of the project almost a year ago and has significantly fallen behind feature wise, I of course installed LibreOffice on the system instead, knowing it has a strong and vibrant community standing behind it and is going from strength to strength.
And this is why I am writing this open letter. Because while a lot of us who comes from technical backgrounds have already caught on to the need to migrate from OpenOffice to LibreOffice, there are still many non-technical users out there who are still defaulting to installing OpenOffice when they are looking for an open source Office Suite, because that is the one they came across 5 years ago. And I believe that the Apache Foundation, being an organization dedicated to open source software, care about the general quality and perception of open source software and thus would share my interest in making sure that all users of open source software gets the best experience possible, even if the project in question isn’t using their code license of preference.
So I realize that the Apache Foundation took a lot of pride in and has invested a lot of effort trying to create an Apache Licensed Office suite based on the old OpenOffice codebase, but I hope that now that it is clear that this effort has failed that you would be willing to re-direct people who go to the openoffice.org website to the LibreOffice website instead. Letting users believe that OpenOffice is still alive and evolving is only damaging the general reputation of open source Office software among non-technical users and thus I truly believe that it would be in everyones interest to help the remaining OpenOffice users over to LibreOffice.
And to be absolutely clear I am only suggesting this due to the stagnant state of the OpenOffice project, if OpenOffice had managed to build a large active community beyond the resources IBM used to provide then it would have been a very different story, but since that did not happen I don’t see any value to anyone involved to just let users keep downloading aging releases of a stagnant codebase until the point were bit rot chase them away or they hear about LibreOffice through mainstream media or friends. And as we all know it is not about just needing a developer or two to volunteer here, maintaining and developing something as large as OpenOffice is a huge undertaking and needs a very sizeable and dedicated community to be able to succeed.
So dear Apache developers, for the sake of open source and free software, please recommend people to go and download LibreOffice, the free office suite that is being actively maintained and developed and which has the best chance of giving them a great experience using free software. OpenOffice is an important part of open source history, but that is also what it is at this point in time.