CyberTech Rambler

December 5, 2006

Novell forking

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 8:40 pm

Novell said, in a press statement, that its version of will have OOXML support and that its OOXML plugin will be contributed back to This lead to PJ concluding that Novell is “forking” While I would not go so far as saying that a “fork” had happened, I did find the statement odd. As a programmer, I would had thought that OOXML support in will come in the vanilla version of Thus, this statement could be a result of an unreported struggle in itself about OOXML support. Or it could be another corporate FUD. The truth is, for Novell to say that its variant of will have OOXML supported and that it will, as required by the license, contribute back to the community the OOXML plugin smack me to be a rerun of Oracle’s Unbreakable Linux. Given PJ’s analysis of Microsoft-Novell’s deal only shows that Microsoft will only give protection to Novell customers if you cross Novell’s palm with silver, one cannot help it but to think this may not be a programming fork for now, but is certainly a “fork” to distinguish between Novell’s and the others.

Miguel De Icaza points out that what Novell announced is something everybody does. This is true and it is also my original understanding as well. However, he fails to point out why such a “routine” and “background” work got a “press statement” treatment. Given that Novell is rightly or wronly taking a lot of heat from the open source community as a result of Novell-Microsoft agreement, it sounds stupid for Novell to contribute firewood to this fire.

It might not be a fork right now. I don’t think so, so does Andy Updegrove. however, please do not underestimate the significance of this anouncement. It could be the starting of a fork. Right now Novell is simply adding OOXML support to This is fine, especially if OOXML is delivered as a plugin. is actively encouraging people to write plugins for it and if do not incorporate OOXML by default, then writing a OOXML plugin is a validation of the plugin strategy and something the teams foresees and approved. It is also a validation of the openness of However, it means Novell is at a very small step away to convert this into a “fork”: Novell go the extra nanometer of making OOXML the default in its version of If it does take this step, then ethically Novell will have to “fork” because it is not adhering to policy on ODF. Novell might also be legally required to “fork” because it might be require to stop using the name This is a bit like the Mozilla in Debian case where Debian package is moving away from calling the browser mozilla because it contains modified code. If this happens, then the significance of this press statement is clear: Novell can later rely on this to argue about that the date “fork”ing occurs is the day of the press release.

So Novell, take stock, WE ARE WATCHING YOU


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