"Novell is not forking OpenOffice"

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From recent media reports, casual readers could easily believe that OpenOffice.org, the popular free office suite, is fragmenting. Slashdot reported last week that Novell is backing an official fork, while Ars Technica suggested that if what was happening fell short of a fork, then it was still "serious fragmentation" and "not a good thing for the OpenOffice.org community." However, a closer look at the situation shows that what is happening is less of a dramatic split than the airing of long-time grievances and the media's discovery of a long-established institution.

The alarm first arose when developer Michael Meeks made a series of blog posts about how Sun Microsystem's control of OpenOffice.org is supposedly stifling the development of a community around the project. It was followed by a blog post by Kohei Yoshida about how he had refused to sign joint copyright to Sun for his calc-solver module, and how Sun was consequently going to try to duplicate his work itself.

Both Meeks and Kohei are well-known OpenOffice.org contributors, and both work for Novell. Consequently, when Meeks mentioned that the go-oo.org site would start providing its own builds of OpenOffice.org, rumors of a Novell-backed fork began to fly. The reality, however, is less dramatic than the reports.

The critique

Also: Sun, StarOffice, Calc, and Forks