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Feature is four years old today; community manager Louis Suarez-Potts talks about the changes

By Bruce Byfield on October 13, 2004 (8:00:00 AM)

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Four years is a long time in software development, and the changes between 2000 and 2004 reflect that. In 2000, didn't exist -- only StarOffice, a product that Sun Microsystems had bought in 1999 from the German-based StarDivision, and didn't seem to know what to do with it. Today, is the source of Sun's version of StarOffice, but very much a project in its own right. Today's has features that the code that was open sourced in 2000 didn't, including automatic installation of dictionaries and fonts, PDF export, and the ability to write plug-ins in Java, Python, and several other programming languages. Louis Suarez-Potts has been community manager of the project since before it was announced. Recently, I talked with him via e-mail about where is heading, its relations with the greater open source community, and some of the issues that surround the project in the news.
BB: First, let's be clear of what we're talking about. Why do you refer to "" when everybody else refers to "Open Office?"

LSP: "Open Office" is trademarked by other companies and entities;. We use, therefore, the awkward "" We think, from time, to time, of changing the name. But changing any product name is always a pain.

BB: How did you become involved with

LSP: I was immensely lucky. I had finished my doctorate in 1999 in English and wanted to stay in the Bay Area. CollabNet was looking for a content manager to work on the recently formed but not yet public project, so I quit my job as a copywriter for a venture capital firm, and joined in October 2000. It was one of the best moves I've ever made. launched nearly the same day I started work. I had been hired to write articles, interviews, that sort of thing, a combination of marketing and reportage, and maintaining key web pages. But my involvement changed as people outside the outside the world of open source began to recognize the value of

I find that my background has helped. I don't just mean my degree and training in the poetics of culture. I mean also that as a child I traveled a great deal, and lived in Spain, Mexico, Australia, as well as the US. This multicultural, as well as multilingual experience has, I believe, permitted me to comprehend that, like much of open source today, is fundamentally international, not American.

BB: What does the Community Manager do?

LSP: My project title is Community Manager. My CollabNet title is Senior Community Development Manager. I'm also the chair of's governing body, the Community Council, and the lead or co-lead of several projects, including Distribution, Website, the Native Language Confederation and Incubator project. And I'm the project editor - a very watered down version of a classic magazine editor.

The really important jobs, at this point, are representation and strategy. I represent to various groups, with the aim of informing as many as possible what is about and how they can make it theirs.

At long last, I might add, we are seeing the public adoption of Novell, for instance, is very public about doing so, and is a strong contributor to the project. We've also seen, again very publicly, government offices taking up Munich, for instance, the city of Largo, Florida, Austin, Texas, and other cities in Germany, and elsewhere. And at OooCon [in September 2004], Christian Hardy, Chief of Information System Departement, Ministère de l'Economie, des Finances et de l'Industrie- Direction de la Prévision and Christophe Cazin, Ingénieur Chargé Stratégie Technique, Ministère de l'Intérieur, de la Sécurité Intérieure et des Libertés Locales, presented on the French administration's adoption of

And strategy? There are a couple parts to this. First, advocating is a lot more than getting individuals or even companies to use it. It also entails getting individuals and companies to build it, or to add to it, or to create plug ins. Most open-source projects are predicated on the notion of "if you build it they will come," but it's just not so simple, especially when you are building a product that is widely seen as facing Goliath.

The other part of strategy consists of policy and direction. I propose much of the guiding policy that the community uses to keep going. (Success has its price: after 1.0, we had suddenly a fifty thousand members, many wanting to help out. So, we had to set up the political and social infrastructure--fast.)

As to being an administrator: I share this role (and many others) with Stefan Taxhet, the Technical Coordination Manager, who has been with since the very beginning.

BB: Looking back, is where you thought it would be after four years?

LSP: Yes and no.

Yes, I thought it would be this popular (tens of millions use daily). Yes, I thought it would be as important as it is now.

No, I didn't imagine that the project would have nearly 170,000 registered members--who could? But early on we did conceive that the project would host dozens of language and development projects.

But I also thought that we might have a more community engagement in determining the actual direction of the source, its roadmap, and that there might even be a foundation hosting the code. We do now have our newly born Engineering Steering Committee and we do have the Community Council. But we are not about to form a Foundation, at least not in the immediate future.

BB: What has been the greatest surprise over the last four years? The greatest disappointment?

LSP: Your question valences "surprise" as good, so our happiest surprise has doubtless been the amazing success of 1.0. When we released 1.0, the curves went exponential, and stayed that way. To be sure, we had done some serious marketing. Zaheda Bhorat, my colleague at Sun, did a great job of organizing us and coordinating work with Sun, as well as following up with the press. But the free application also spoke for itself, and in a week, hundreds of thousands downloaded the code and evidently spread the word. We are still riding the wave produced by that event.

My greatest disappointment? The lack of companies stepping forward to help contribute to the development of the Mac OS X port.

Our Mac OS X build is fantastic, and I use it every day, for articles, presentations, spreadsheets. It never crashes, and it allows me to work with my Linux and Solaris colleagues while maintaining my Mac glow of happiness. It's entirely community built, the work of Ed Peterlin, Dan Williams, Kevin Hendricks, Eric Hoch, Terry Teague, Patrick Luby, and many others (all of whom have day jobs). It runs in X11, in a way that is very elegant and very pleasing to the eye. The job they have done is truly brilliant. The next step is to make the build run natively in Aqua. However, moving to the Aqua interface is an enormous undertaking.

Now, you would think that Mac companies and developers throughout the world would be contacting us left and right wanting to help out. A company could allocate an engineer or two versed in X11 and cocoa, say, and really help. It's a puzzle that they do not step forward more.

So, here is the scoop: Any company is invited to include as a front-end application. For instance, Adobe could include it as such and thus enhance its market position. So could Quark. There is no limit. All that we ask is that patches be contributed back to the project.

BB: Recently, there's been a lot of coverage about the SEC filings that revealed that Microsoft had agreed not to involve Sun in any litigation over Many people in the Open Source Community felt that Sun had abandoned How would you respond to these concerns?

LSP: Many analysts have dived into this field since the Seattle Post-Intelligencer broke the story early September. Arguments have gone all over the place. My response now -- weeks after my initial comments -- comes as a reflection. I'd ask readers to investigate: which open-source projects indemnify users and contributors against lawsuits? I'm curious. Another point is: What defines The filing calls "Open office," but what does that refer to? The source from's repository (and binaries derived from it)? The application that Linux distributions distribute? Or all? The situation now is that just about anybody can call what she distributes "Open office". The solution to this problem--if it is a problem--is to more narrowly define what is meant by ""

BB: Sun's public announcements sometimes seem ambivalent, if not actively hostile to the idea of open source. Have you ever had any conflicts with Sun as a result of this attitude? With other open source projects or communities?

LSP: We have had only support from Sun. We would always like more, but Sun's support has been steady, and we have never had any serious conflict with Sun management.

Sun's comments on open source have, of course, puzzled us, but McNealy and Schwartz have always been supportive. Could Sun do more? Yes. But open source is for Sun, as it is for any enterprise, a business decision. What the open-source movement has to do is make a business case for the things it wants. One has to show how a company will benefit from supporting open source.

Do we have conflict with other projects or communities because of Sun's comments on open source? No. People understand that Sun is the sponsor but not the sum of Sun is a member of the community but the community is not a member of Sun. There is a distinction.

BB: What resources has Sun put into For example, how many people does Sun employ to work on

LSB: Sun has put a lot of resources into the project: it pays CollabNet for the website infrastructure, the management (me), as well as many of the core developers, QA, and translation. I have no good idea how many people are working on Ask Sun that.

As to non-Sun contributors, they number in the thousands, with developers a naturally smaller portion of that. Most of the non-Sun developers work in areas such as localization, porting, as well as extending the application.

BB: Bruce Perens, among others, has voiced the opinion that should drop the Joint Copyright Assignment (JCA), the agreement by which contributors agree to share copyright with Sun. This agreement, he argues, discourages contributors. Certainly, in my experience, this statement seems true. Can you explain why the agreement is used, and how it affects the project?

LSP: The JCA assigns copyright of source (or other contributions) to Sun and to the original copyright holder. The JCA does not take your work away. You retain copyright over it.

I am sure that there are some source contributors who have balked at the JCA, as they do not want Sun to hold copyright over their work, even though they retain all rights over it.

For documentation, we use the Public Documentation License, or PDL. (See <>.) It does not grant copyright to Sun and is easy fairly easy to use, but must be attached per document; the JCA covers all contributions.

For uneditable files, such as articles, interviews, or the like, we ask either public domain or, if that is not feasible, will accept Community Commons license.

Of course, one could have a system where by no assignment is made, and that might work for Linux-like projects, which are definitively rhizomatic and where modules addressing this or that element can come into being regardless of any roadmap. But I don't think it works for a project where you need coordinated work. Many businesses and governments depend on the fact that we have a roadmap that we adhere to. They like our dependability, the fact that they can anticipate what the future holds. So, I don't think the project would be better off without it.

But that leaves open another point: Where can one contribute without using the JCA? Well, there are add ons and plug ins. Not all require source contributions, and any person or organization is free to create add ons and plug ins that enhance We will gladly list any such group on our website.

BB: Microsoft has a standard line that StarOffice/ is functionally equivalent to MS Office 97. How would you respond?

LSP: They are wrong. Was MS Office 97 able to export any file as a PDF? Export presentations as Macromedia Shockwave Flash files? Was MS 97 using XML for all its files? Functionally, we are leading Microsoft Office.

BB: What about calendaring? That's what people most often say that they miss in Other features that MS Office has that doesn't include a grammar checker, on-line collaborative tools, and file locking. Are any of these in's future?

LSP: To be sure, these features are not present today in We do have a groupware project ( which is working on email and calendering. And we have also been in discussion with Mozilla, to see how we can work with them.

The lingucomponent project is working on a grammar checker. ( If you can help out, help out.

Similarly, the tools you mention: some are in the future, such as collaboration tools. Our core roadmap is fairly set for 2.0, but there is no roadmap for plug ins, and the roadmap for what lies beyond 2.0 is wide open.

BB: In some circles, is perceived as being aloof from the rest of the free software/open source community. Why is that? Is the project doing anything to improve this image?

LSP: Really? Aloof? That is not our impression. In fact, we are considered to be spearheading a lot of open source work and establishing OS communities throughout the world.

But perhaps the impression derives from the fact that it is, admittedly, difficult to contribute code to the source. It's difficult for a couple of reasons, not least having to do with the nature of the code. It's also been difficult because our process needed improvement. It took too long for developers to learn of the status of their contributions. Fortunately, we are improving that process. Any contributor should know the status of his or her contribution, and will.

BB: has recently announced some joint marketing efforts with Mozilla. Can you describe these efforts, and what you hope they will do for both projects?

LSP: Our goal is to work with other open-source projects. Synergy is better than going it alone, both in development but also in marketing. Mozilla and KDE have also seen this, and our agreement with Mozilla is meant to leverage our respective presences in the world. We hope then that users wanting Mozilla will now be considering and vice versa. These include, of course, Windows users, who make up the majority of our download base.

BB: Version 2.0 of is due in the spring of 2005. What can we expect in it?

LSP: 2.0 is the most important release since 1.0. It's much faster, more modular, has a bunch of new features, a separate database component, and is more interoperable with Microsoft Office.

But these points are not as interesting as the file format, which is an open XML-based file format" approved by the international standards body, OASIS. (See Any vendor can also use it. KOffice does; others will follow.

Right now, the developer builds are getting closer to being ready for daily (though not naive) use. We urge people to download it and test it; file issues. Let us know what you like and dislike and why.

If you are curious what 2.0 promises, Dmitri Popov has just sent me a link to a review he wrote for PC Stuff ( One point Popov mentions: 2.0 is not [currently] backwards compatible, meaning that you can read old files (1.1.x) but not save as such. However, by the time 2.0 is formally released, there will be a patch for 1.1.x / SO7.x to enable that code line to read the new file formats.

BB: Version 2.0 has native installers for each operating system. As a Debian user, I can't help noticing that the GNU/Linux downloads of the development builds are available for .rpm only. Is going to provide .deb packages as well?

LSP: You mean just for the developer build? ( Here ( are instructions to get it working for Debian. Credit to Clemmitt Sigler.

BB: Recently on the Marketing list, you published a slide show that raised the question of whether would move its licence from the dual SISSL/LGPL to the GPL. What stage is this suggestion at? What are its pros and cons?

LSP: Sun's Chief Technology Evangelilst Simon Phipps argued at the recent OOoCon that should consider changing license. [He did not argue to change to GPL; my error if I confused people there.] I argued in my presentation that should be GPL and have a commercial license.

Sun, as the copyright holder is the one who ultimately makes the decision on the character of the license. But it is up to the community who works on the code to have a say in it. It is their work. Do I need to emphasize that the community of includes the Sun coders?

Right now, as I mentioned in my presentation, there are numerous companies that engage in the open-source economy with They take binaries, distribute them, enhance them, or work on the source, and contribute patches back to the project. Everyone is happy. That's the way the OS economy should work. Thus, Sun, Novell, Propylon, Red Hat and many others are good open source citizens.

But there are also some that take advantage of the licenses and sell binaries, sometimes enhanced, but do not contribute back to the project. For the smaller companies, we have long tolerated it, as our goal was to get the file format out there at all costs. But there are increasingly more of these, and some are much larger than others. We would like for SOT Office, Magyar Office, RedOffice, and numerous others to contribute their enhancements back to We would especially like for IBM, whose Workplace seems, from what I have heard, to be based on, if only partly,, to do the same. Instead, right now, we have a mess of small forks and the shadow of a big one. Changing the license to GPL will limit exploitation. it will also situate more within the large economy of GPL-coded works.

But there would be drawbacks. For instance, commercial plug in writers would probably balk, thus reducing the extensibility of the application. So there is an option, which I also discussed, to add a commercial license. A commercial plug in writer could thus continue to sell her work, though she would be required to pay a license fee.

But let's say that she also contributes actively to the project. Then, it would make sense to waive that fee, using an equivalence table. Of course, creating such a table is notoriously difficult.

How do I envision this dual license structure working? Say you download Upon installation, you are presented with a choice: commercial or free (GPL). If you choose free, then great, you can use it, enhance it, distribute it, do all the things you normally do with GPL software. You can't, however, include proprietary plug ins or otherwise make the application part of a proprietary object.

If you choose the commercial license, you can do those things; you will just have to pay.

Who would garner the fees? Logically, the copyright holder, in this case, Sun.

BB: What direction do you see going after version 2.0?

LSP: Our goal is always to be more robust, faster, more interoperable with all suites. We also want to further the modularization of the code, thus making it easier for developers

But, to me, this is but a start. has the potential to be, as it were, etherealized, and sited not on somebody's desk but in cyberspace, as well as to work with a universe of other open source technology. Imagine a true "on-demand" accessible through a browser or even mobile phone; a suite that can be worked on from within a browser, anywhere in the world. With open source there are no limits but there is the challenge to undo the banal world view that monopoly has imposed. With monopoly software, fear, inertia, and the complacency of vast bulk limit what can be done.

BB: Do you have any pet projects or ambitions for the project?

LSP: Yes, I suppose I do: To make a tool for users everywhere in the world with which they may not only bridge the digital divide, but go beyond that. is free and will remain so for users. It reads and writes MS Office. Governments and corporations, should use it. That way, not only do they save taxpayer money, but if they use, they also implicitly give those same taxpayers access to public documents.

Sure, you can do this with PDF, but that means that the user must have a PDF reader, and that works for many. And, you could also just put all documents on the Web. But that can be impractical. You could also save everything to RTF or even text, but again, there are impracticalities. Imagine, for instance, having to fill out a long form with many fields.

Enter It not only can export files as PDF, plain text and, HTML, but also is free, and because the file format is OASIS, will remain so. This is why the Australian government archives have chosen to use (even before we moved to OASIS). More governments should follow suit. It costs nothing, it does everything.

BB: What's the best way for someone to get involved with Are there any projects that particularly need recruits? And If someone has a project, how do they go about getting it accepted as part of the project?

LSB: Let's start with the basics. Are you a developer? or do you just wish to contribute art, support, marketing, Web design, etc? Regardless, you should go to our lovely Contributing pages, which Daniel Carrera created( )

We recommend that virtually all would-be contributors with any technical skill (okay, you do not need technical skill) start with our QA project. ( ) It's a superb way to learn not only how the project works but who's who, and what there is that really needs doing.

If you are interested in coding, have a look at our to-dos: They are probably always going to be a little outdated, so it's prudent to go to the relevant project list and ask what there is to do. Our lists are friendly but people are busy. Thus, it helps to be persistent. You should also have a look at Michael Meeks' unofficial Hacker's Guide, as well as our SDK and other material (

Let's say you have a patch you want to contribute. You follow our suggestions and submit it via IssueZilla, our issue and bug tracker. No one pays attention to it, and the weeks pass. The strategy you should follow: get on the mail lists, and make your submission known. Directly find out why it's being ignored. Most likely, it has to do with the fact people are hideously busy. But, continue raising your voice. If nothing happens, contact me.

Suppose you want to start a new project: you want to include a new feature. To give an example, David Wilson began the Bibliographic Project because he felt needed a sophisticated bibliograhic machine, not unlike EndNote. ( He has managed it quite brilliantly, and has succeeded in drawing developers and university interest to it.

So, if you have a clever idea, start an Incubator project. It's easy. We just check to see that it does not duplicate work already being done and that it is not frivolous. Contact me for details.

Now, let's say you are a non-technical contributor. If you want to work on localization or translation, visit our Native Language Confederation list ( and see if there is a project in the language you want to work on. If you want to do other work, we have support, business development, documentation, marketing, website, projects. These are listed in the Projects pages

We are also working now with secondary and post-secondary schools: with students, teachers, professors. If you are a college or graduate student, and would like to work on, contact me; if in high-school, you may want to visit We think that should be thought of as a resource for learning how to code, for learning how to work in a collaborative environment.

In going through these URLs, I realize, again, how large, how complex the project is. But to me, it is in fact a community, a community comprising smaller communities but one that is friendly and engaging. And the work it is doing is good. The people working on the project are creating something that gives enormously to the world while also changing the way work itself is done., the product and the way of working, is where the future is.

For those of you who have gone this far, congratulations. But now let's start.
Bruce Byfield is a computer journalist who writes regularly for

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on is four years old today; community manager Louis Suarez-Potts talks about the changes

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Joint Copyright And Commercial License

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 13, 2004 10:34 PM
I like the way that the joint copyright means you still own your work, but for a commercial license Sun would get the money.
Still, at least it isn't BSD "licensed".


Can it be forked?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 13, 2004 10:47 PM
Sun's schizoid attitude toward anything non-Sun/Solaris/Java is an issue. Is it possible under the license, further down the road as Sun continues to deteriorate, when they decide to pull a SCO, to fork OpenOffice completely away from Sun?

Will OpenOffice work now, or will it be possible if/when forked away from Sun, for it to work without Java (jre)? Any other Sun issues to worry about, patent attacks aside?


Re:Can it be forked?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 13, 2004 11:37 PM
You don't need Java for 95% of the features. Most users would never notice the lack of Java.


Re:Can it be forked?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 13, 2004 11:49 PM has always worked without a JRE. The core program is C++. Java is only there to provide the ability to extend with java components.


Which is the way things are going anyway

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 14, 2004 01:40 AM
Which is a general direction of progress anyway. Ximian has Mono/.NET extensions for Evolution.



Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 14, 2004 12:08 AM
In my interview, I mention that Simon Phipps called for a change of the OOo license to GPL in his keynote. He did not. He called for a change of the license and did no specify the license.

-Louis Suarez-Potts



Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 14, 2004 02:38 AM
Your point regarding plug ins, is correct. It would be great if users could easily download plug ins for OOo. But not all commercial companies are currently distributing modified versions of that way.

BTW, Sun has nothing at all to do with this license change suggestion.



Why I contribute to AbiWord

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 14, 2004 12:44 AM
Sun continues to show that it's developed cluelessness to an unprecedented level. Perhaps it should patent this level of cluelessness in order to prevent anybody else from getting there:

But there would be drawbacks. For instance, commercial plug in writers would probably balk,<nobr> <wbr></nobr>... So there is an option, which I also discussed, to add a commercial license. A commercial plug in writer could thus continue to sell her work, though she would be required to pay a license fee.<nobr> <wbr></nobr>...

Say you download Upon installation, you are presented with a choice: commercial or free (GPL). If you choose free, then great, you can use it, enhance it, distribute it, do all the things you normally do with GPL software. You can't, however, include proprietary plug ins or otherwise make the application part of a proprietary object.

If you choose the commercial license, you can do those things; you will just have to pay.

Who would garner the fees? Logically, the copyright holder, in this case, Sun.

In other words,

We do not currently have a plug in structure, but to keep our plug-in writers happy, we must take the following steps:

  • we must hold copyright jointly with all contributors (no negotiation);

  • we must exploit this relationship and charge our future plug-in writers for the privelege of writing plug-ins (this keeps them happy -- and, no, the other copyright holders will get no portion of this "rent");

  • end users who refuse to pay for a commercial license will not have access to these plug-ins (guaranteeing a small audience for the plug-in writers).

Perhaps Sun believes that users of the GPLed version could use these commercial plug-ins. If so, please let me know how Sun could release a GPL-compatible version of OOo that runs plug-ins but prohibit people from creating plug-ins without paying a fee (a plug-in is a derivative work, and is permitted without fee under the GPL).

It would make more sense to me for Sun to continue making money from OOo however it is currently making money, and offer a plug-in framework to increase the potential market for OOo. Plug-in writers could release their plug-ins under terms "incompatible" with the GPL, as long as the plug-in must be obtained seperately from the program. <A HREF="" title="">The GPL doesn't prohibit an end user from mingling non-GPL code with the covered software</a> -- it prohibits redistributing the software with non-GPL-compliant code. In this case, Sun would be wise to make it easy for end users to redistribute OOo without plug-ins.


Re:Why I contribute to AbiWord

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 14, 2004 12:58 AM
OOo already has a plug-in structure that is being used. In addition, OOo is already dual-licenced, and Sun already has parts in StarOffice, its version of the code, that are not in the free version.

Also, you talk as though Sun made the decisions or ran OOo. It doesn't. It has a large voice because of its contributions, but not an absolute one. Sun makes its money from StarOffice, which is based on the OOo code.



Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 14, 2004 05:21 AM
I really miss the old "Side Bars" from OpenOffice 1.x. It would be really nice to be able to add those again.

They were quick and easy to access. (once you figured them out)


GNU GPL includes the right to do business

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 14, 2004 04:26 PM
It makes no sense to talk about dual-licensing a piece of software as "GNU GPL or a commercial license". It's unfortunate that is not aware that the right to do business and charge money is a part of the GNU GPL.

'Free' as in 'Freedom', not 'Free' as in 'gratis/at no charge'.

A license is about terms of use, not price. You may OBTAIN a license either gratis or for a price. Got it?

References:<nobr>P<wbr></nobr> LAllowMoney


Wake up moron

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 16, 2004 12:59 PM
Your understanding of capitalism amazes me. Wake up child, someday you will have a mortgage to pay (hopefully).

Making money from open source is very difficult.


Re:Wake up moron

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 18, 2004 08:31 PM
A license is about terms of use, obtaining the license can happen after an exchange of money or not.

Microsoft Internet Explorer is licensed, yet available at no cost. Microsoft Office is also licensed, yet to obtain a license you must pay a fee. Saying Microsoft Office has a commercial license and Microsoft Internet Explorer doesn't makes no sense.

A license is what it is, a unilateral agreement. If you don't agree, you cannot use the software - it doesn't matter if you paid the developer or not. Now, that is the LAW, so YOU wake up!

As for my original post, I thought I made it quite clear that can - and should? - charge for the product. All I said is that they don't need two licenses to start a commercial offering, the GNU GPL is enough.


Re:Wake up moron

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 20, 2004 01:01 AM
I agree with you, if i understand you correct. That OOo might sell their product, but also keep an free (as in coffie) alternative. But with the commercial product they can provide installation and use-support and maybe next release on CD sent to their customers. But, then there wouldn't be much difference between StarOffice and (commercial)OpenOffice, and that will probably be confusing for most people, and remember the main purpose with StarOffice and OpenOffice is to take over more of the MS Office-users.

That would be some kind of licensing like Trolltech in Norway with their QT, and like MySQL. But as i have understood there are some difference between these two. Trolltech have a commercial license for other companies that want to make money writing commercial software based on QT, while MySQL requires that the non-commercial product can only be used with other opensource-software.


Re:Wake up moron

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 20, 2004 04:17 PM
My point is, OOo CAN sell their product, because the GNU GPL grants the right to be free to do so. It's a freedom.

Trolltech and MySQL are confusing the issues by calling their license to make proprietary versions 'a commercial license'. This is very unfortunate. I understand why they don't want to call it 'un-free versions license' or 'proprietary version license', yet that is the purpose of those licenses - to let someone make a software solution which does not require them to pass on the freedoms of the GNU GPL upon distribution.

Why Sun is pushing the name StarOffice is beyond me. Everyone who has heard of a Microsoft alternative available knows about, so that is what Sun should sell in nice box or preinstalled on their hardware.

Let's say you create a software package, and you license it using the GNU GPL. You have not distributed it yet. You find some potential customers, demonstrated the software and offer them to buy the software, and you inform them of the licensing terms. If they like it, they will buy it from you. You have made some money. Now, what happens next?
A) the customers start selling the same software to someone else, and you loose your business. CRAP, they will get on with their own business.
B) the competitors get the software from one of your customers, offer them a better version - WHICH MUST BE GNU GPLed also, and you loose your business.
C) you get the enhanced version from the lost customer, and win them back by enhancing it even more. To make the customer more loyal to you, you offer per incidence support contracts, you get more staff, more competent staff and so on, making the customers TRUST YOUR BUSINESS as well as your software.

To summarize: you are allowed, even encouraged by the FSF to sell GNU GPLed software. 'Commercial' is not a synonym for either 'free' or 'un-free' license terms. 'Commercial' means
a) that to OBTAIN a license - regardless of the license terms - you must pay money
b) that to receive support or services you must pay money


Re:Wake up moron

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on October 20, 2004 09:19 PM
I want to elaborate on point B), just to make everything clear: your GNU GPLed software requires your competitor UPON DISTRIBUTION of the original or a derivate product (a product build with parts from the original) to grant the freedoms of the GNU GPL.


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