The open source community behind the free OpenOffice productivity suite has outlined plans to distance itself from Oracle with the creation of an independent Document Foundation.
The strategy involves rebranding and restructuring, along with the launch of a vendor-independent software suite called LibreOffice that will feature Open Document Format support and require no copyright assignment.
The Document Foundation has received support from almost the entire OpenOffice programming community, including Novell, Red Hat and Google, leaving only Oracle with the original OpenOffice repository.
The Foundation said that it had invited Oracle to become a member of the new organisation, and to donate the brand it acquired with Sun Microsystems 18 months ago.
Pending this decision, the LibreOffice brand will be used to refer to the Document Foundation's software development efforts.
"We believe that the Foundation liberates the development of the code and the evolution of the project from the constraints represented by the commercial interests of a single company," said Sophie Gautier, a community veteran and former maintainer of OpenOffice.org's French language project.
Richard Stallman, president of the Free Software Foundation, pointed out that the decision will enable the Document Foundation to avoid recommending proprietary add-ons.
"They are the main freedom problem of the current OpenOffice.org," he said. "I hope that the LibreOffice developers and the Oracle-employed developers of OpenOffice will be able to co-operate on development of the body of the code."
Guy Lunardi, product management director at Novell, suggested that LibreOffice could do for the office productivity market what Mozilla's Firefox has done for browsers.
"Viva la LibreOffice," he said. "We look forward to working with the Document Foundation to help develop a solid open source document software offering."
Mark Shuttleworth, founder and major shareholder of Canonical, the maker of Ubuntu, added: "The Document Foundation's stewardship of LibreOffice provides Ubuntu developers [with] an effective forum for collaboration around the code that makes Ubuntu a solution for the desktop in office environments."
Bob Tarzey, director of analyst firm Quocirca, told V3.co.uk that the announcement is a good test of Oracle's open source credentials.
"We will have to see whether Oracle is willing to relinquish control over the OpenOffice brand in the interests of the wider community," he said.
"Ultimately, if this new Foundation decides it's better off without Oracle, then it's probably best off doing the move to maintain its freedom and establish its independence on the software development front."
Oracle had not responded to requests for comment at the time of writing.
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