LibreOffice released, Foundation still aborning

LibreOffice 3.3 released, while the Document Foundation works to incorporate.

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LibreOffice, I was pleased to see, released its 3.3 version for the world to use this week.

Don't look for a lot of flashy changes in LibreOffice because on the surface there isn't much: the Presenters Console module has been folded into the main code, you can now import SVG files, and a whole slew of things that, let's face it, don't add up to much change.

On the surface.

Under the hood, there's a lot of cleaning up of code happening, according to Novell Linux Desktop Architect Michael Meeks. LibreOffice is shifting to a more rapid development cycle than its antecedent OpenOffice.org. That development cycle means users should see point releases coming out more in terms of weeks rather than the two-three months it took between OpenOffice.org releases, and the ginormous codebase will get a much-needed pruning.

How much? Meeks highlighted the technical side of the equation: the Windows install is "just" 11 Gb in size, compared to the 74-Gb OpenOffice.org install.

Would that my office could get that clean.

There's more to do, of course, and inexorably the LibreOffice developers will start to pull away from OpenOffice.org as invariably new features continue to make the two office suites more different.

But rather than dwell on the product, I am keenly interested in the organization under whose auspices LibreOffice is sponsored: the Document Foundation. An organization, I learned, still does not legally exist.

That's a bit of overdramatization: "legally exist" means that right now the Document Foundation is not officially incorporated as an entity in any jurisdiction.

When Meeks, who is a steering committee deputy with the Document Foundation, explained that the Document Foundation is not incorporated as a foundation yet, I was a bit surprised. After all, with companies like Novell, Red Hat, Canonical, and Google behind the organization, one would have expected that this bit of legal housekeeping would have been handled by now. Curiously, it has not and, according to Meeks, the Document Foundation is still trying to raise the 50,000€ [US$68,667] needed to incorporate the Document Foundation in Germany.

The decision was made to incorporate in Germany, rather than the US as a 503b(3) or (6) non-profit foundation because the Brazilians within the LibreOffice community were not thrilled with the prospect of having LibreOffice in US jurisdiction, Meeks added.

What tweaked me about this was, given the list of organizations supporting the Document Foundation, one would expect that someone would--if you'll pardon the pun--fork over the dough. I was going to ask Meeks about just that very thing, but he said something during the interview before I could get to the question.

While the Document Foundation continues to be created, and LibreOffice continues to improve, the community itself is striving to grow and prosper without being beholden to any one large organization.

And that, I believe, is rather telling. The Document Foundation may work with corporate interests, but it seems to be resisting letting any on organization get too heavily involved.

I can get behind that notion, since a more diverse form of community ownership and management is often desirable. I wonder, though, at what point can the Document Foundation effectively keep going without some form of corporate involvement? Will the Document Foundation become like Wikipedia, with Jimmy Wales' face asking us for money regularly?

It is important to note that Meeks did not explicitly say the Document Foundation was trying to keep "pure"--I inferred that from the statements he made about the LibreOffice development community and the way they want it to grow. And if my inference was wrong--and that's not much of a stretch--why haven't these supporters chipped in and come up with the base organization fee? It's not like I have 50,000€ sitting around, but between so many corporate supporters, you'd think they could come up with the money in short order.

Of course, the Document Foundation is perfectly capable of raising the money on their own. Visit their donation site if you want to contribute to the cause.

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