The OpenOffice suite of productivity software that acts as a free alternative to Microsoft's services could fold owing to a lack of volunteers working on the project.
The Sun Microsystems open source productivity suite, now in the hands of the Apache Foundation, has suffered, at least in part, from the more organised LibreOffice forked from the original but being run on a more formalised release schedule.
The result is that OpenOffice has fallen behind and is in a potentially inescapable spiral.
Now, Dennis Hamilton, vice president of Apache, has issued a bleak warning in an email to stakeholders: "There is a litmus test which is kind of a red line. That is for the project to have a PMC capable of producing releases.
"In the case of Apache OpenOffice, needing to disclose security vulnerabilities for which there is no mitigation in an update has become a serious issue."
The message goes on to spell it out in black and white: "I cannot predict how this will all work out. It is remiss of me not to point out that retirement of the project is a serious possibility.
"There are those who fear that discussing retirement can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. My concern is that the project could end with a bang or a whimper. My interest is in seeing any retirement happen gracefully.
"That means we need to consider it as a contingency. For contingency plans, no time is a good time, but earlier is always better than later."
Hamilton then goes on to outline possible options for retirement, ranging from protecting the codebase to the stopping of social media interaction. It suggests that OpenOffice could release a final version that would be definitive, to all intents and purposes, and leave a final point of contact for anyone interested in the brand.
This is not to say that the closure of OpenOffice is inevitable, but that those who care about the project are trying to ensure that it bows out gracefully if the need arises.
Apache warned in July of a seemingly "unfixable" security flaw that came with the workaround of using another office suite (including LibreOffice). The flaw was eventually patched, but it demonstrated concerns that there are no longer the resources to work on a fix should something similar happen in the future.
The demise of OpenOffice would be one of the highest profile open source failures in the history of what has generally been a very stable model.
OpenOffice would live on, purely as the basis for LibreOffice which continues to increase in popularity. Meanwhile, the last major release for OpenOffice was in October 2015.
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