2008 will be a year many will remember. At least, it will be known as the year where the stock market plummeted and the subprime-inducted crisis took millions of Americans out of their home. On a lighter note, 2008 will also be remembered as the year of the “3.0” for OpenOffice.org.
Besides the obvious symbolic value of the version number, the OpenOffice.org is readying itself to what will be a crucial release for its future.
The Marketing Project, thanks to the leadership of John McCreesh and Florian Effenberger, is busy revamping entire portions of the web site, while new means of communication (a blog aggregator) are being tested. Other teams have quietly been rolling out new services and projects in order to improve almost every aspect of what can be referred to as “the OpenOffice.org experience”.
The User Interface project fosters users’ input in order to improve the existing user interface, while the Quality Assurance project redesigned its project’s page and ran several months ago its QA Track services (a second version being expected soon). Much in the same line, the overall infrastructure requirements for the project are being discussed and solutions defined . A much expected addition to the project was the integration of full-featured user forums. They provide a new venue for users who may not be comfortable with mailing lists. Creation of multi-lingual forums is on its way.
Wether the 3.0 will be released according to the expected schedule does not really matter though. What will ultimately matter is what can be described as the explosion – implosion of OpenOffice.org both as a project and as product. As a product, the 3.0 will allow a lot more extendability and the extensions web site will also be fully functional. The extension and the creation of a real ecosystem will be perennial to the OpenOffice.org success as a product. On a technical level, the 3.0 will be an important milestone in the architectural changes going on deeply inside the code base. The 3.0 will be the base platform for componentizing OpenOffice.org and build a rich client based on the UNO technology.In this regard, one can call this the explosion of OpenOffice.org but in a good sense of course.
The implosion (also heard in a positive way) refers to the changes happening inside the OpenOffice.org project. The coming of new corporate members changes the ratios, pushing some to the bottom of the contributors (as Novell), some others to the most important contributors of the project (RedOffice) while the community of individuals, wether code contributors or contributors in other ways, still amounts for the second largest contributing party in the project. The integration of new corporate members, such as IBM, is mostly seen as a welcome and much desired addition to the project. However, the issue of representativity and the fear of having the project’s governance being swallowed up in the heap of corporate interests, as enlightened as they can sometimes be, does exist and must be addressed. The setup of an advisory board has eased some of these concerns as it acts as a communication platform between all the contributors, but it also needs to show it can last in time. Moreover, the governance of OpenOffice.org has to show that it can adapt to the rising challenge of new contributors while improving representativity.
2008 will thus be an opportunity for OpenOffice.org to drive forward deep changes that will, if they’re carried on succesfully, help sustain its adoption and secure its technology and project for the years to come. My (humble) take on this is that we’re nowhere better than when we face this kind of challenges, and I think OpenOffice.org has much to show to the world and to its community.
Have a great week-end!