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[board-discuss] an Online move ...


Hi there,

        This is a detailed mail, so it shows up as a TLDR; then a
status quo / resolution / benefits triplet, and a link to our FAQ.
We're excited about this as a way to decisively unwind a number of
inter-related problems at TDF. We'll keep an up-to-date version of
this in the FAQ.

* TLDR;

        Collabora announces that it will move its work on Online from
TDF to GitHub https://collaboraonline.github.io/, in order to ensure
future investment in the software development of Collabora Online and
LibreOffice. This will allow us to deliver on many of the requests
from the community and we expect that this will resolve the lengthy
discussions in the TDF Board around a fair strategy for "LibreOffice
online", thus freeing energy for other constructive topics.


* status quo / resolution / benefits:

** status quo: background & issues

        + the current status of "Online" at TDF is dis-satisfying to
        end-users, some community members, Collabora, and it creates
        strain in the LibreOffice project.

        + Online has been substantially created, sustained and
        continues to be developed by Collabora investment:

                + Collabora's 20+ committers provided 95%+ of the
                  commits in the last year

        + LibreOffice Online has been a source-only project: a place
        to collaborate around development, with own-branded products
        versions derived from that. Publicly available products have
        encouraged people to buy support when under heavy use.

        + some TDF community, board and staff members have made it
        clear they don't accept this compromise, and want TDF to use
        the LibreOffice brand to distribute a competing gratis product
        in the marketplace driving the price to zero, (perhaps combined
        with nags for donations to TDF). Others wish to ship gratis
        LibreOffice branded builds not immediately but in 3-6 months.

        + still others dislike the idea of telling users that it is
        essential that they contribute to the project, in proportion
        to their ability. Others have concerns about even gentle moral
        suasion here eg. around tags & naming; others around donation
        requests. Still others recommend proprietary software, or sale
        of extensions as a solution. Some claim the TDF statues
        require one course of action, others that they do not.

        + this combination of uncertain direction, structure and
        statutes at TDF make it difficult for an investor today to
        have any confidence in a future return over the years in
        which that takes when the Online project is hosted by TDF.

        + TDF has historically avoided explaining clearly how
        LibreOffice is created even to its own community. It does not
        give effective credit to the commercial community members
        doing most of the indispensable work in any way
        that can drive a proportionate return. There is little
        confidence in this improving.

        + The prospect of the Collabora brand having to compete
        against something we ~95% build ourselves.  ie. with products
        sold or distributed gratis under the popular "LibreOffice"
        brand - while Collabora continues to sustain, maintain, and
        improve the software in an effectively invisible way is deeply
        problematic.

                + imagine trying to explain to larger users why they
                should not use LibreOffice Online, but pay for
                Collabora Online. Absent significant help from TDF
                that is incredibly hard to do in a way that doesn't
                damage LibreOffice as a whole.

                + For TDF to provide significant support fairly, in a
                way that rewards investment, is incredibly challenging
                to achieve inside TDF's structures.

        + There are lots of good people on all sides of this argument
        who come from different perspectives. Many of them are
        unhappy; we seem stuck in a worst of all worlds position
        currently.

        + There is an ironic tension here between wanting everything
        to be gratis, and wanting investment. Ultimately by making
        everything gratis, while not encouraging users to contribute
        financially, and having no credible plan to reward investment
        - TDF harms its own FOSS mission, which aligns well with
        Collabora's: to produce great FLOSS software for everyone.

* TLDR; resolution: a move.

        + To sustain Online and to improve it requires substantial and
        ongoing investment and focus, far beyond what TDF can provide
        via nags & donations. Any returns require a stable
        environment.

        + We believe the most elegant way to resolve the strain and
        uncertainty is to move our existing sub-project & work around
        Online to a new project at Collabora.

                + this accounts for ~1.5% of the size of LibreOffice
                  core (openhub) and around 1% of the translation
                  strings.

        + This project would have continuity of license and FLOSS
          ethos. However it will be hosted outside TDF's
          infrastructure and regulation, hopefully as a friendly
          daughter project, using its own infrastructure. It would
          end up looking much like Fedora, openSUSE, Nextcloud,
          ownCloud, Seafile and many others.

        + Clearly TDF committership would transfer to Collabora Online,
          and we would welcome and honor all who wish to to contribute.

* TLDR; benefits:

        We expect that *iff* this move can be resolved in a
constructive and positive fashion, with a single clear destination
project then we would get these benefits:

        + Collabora will remove the reminder to users to get support
        for larger deployments (that annoy some) from CODE as part
        of this move.

        + By having a single Online project hosted by Collabora, a
        clear brand story easily establishes an appropriate credit for
        the origin of the product into every reference to it by those
        using it for free. Just like the other prominent OSS projects
        we integrate with.

        + This would remove the urgency around some elements of the new
        TDF marketing plans, Personal / Community etc. tags, external
        entities to offer downloads, difficult algorithms to work out
        whom TDF gives priority to in a (hoped for) LibreOffice
        Enterprise ecosystem, challenging trademark agreements etc.

        + The 'LibreOffice' brand would have a clearer scope: as both
        a Desktop product, and a core Technology which can be built
        upon to create amazing things such as Collabora Online.

        + There would be less aggravation in the board and community,
        and hopefully a return to positive mutual regard.

        + It would give confidence to Online investors that they
        control their destiny; with no-one else to blame.

        + This would allow investment to be sustained to fix bugs, and
        to create new FLOSS, meeting TDF's mission. This will continue
        to have a positive knock-on impact on improving the
        LibreOffice core: filters, rendering, performance, bug-fixes
        etc.

        + This is an opportunity for TDF to focus its positive energy
        on its important mission.

        + This will allow Collabora to experiment with GitHub to see
        if it reduces the barrier to contribution, and increases the
        pool of available contributors.

        + Collabora hopes the move will aid in maintaining income to
        continue investing in LibreOffice: mentoring, contributing
        code, sponsoring the conference, funding via the Advisory
        Board, mentoring at hack-fests, helping at the ESC, serving
        on the board etc.

        + This would also re-balance contribution to LibreOffice core,
        making volunteers the largest committers once again, followed
        by Collabora, RedHat, CIB, NISZ, TDF etc.

* TLDR; Conclusion

        This is primarily a change of presentation, that can un-pick a
big knot of badness in the LibreOffice community. It is primarily
driven by the need for continued investment in Online, in addition to
the huge effort that Collabora and our partners have put into the
product to date.

        In our view it is the best solution for both LibreOffice and
Collabora. If the move is handled sensibly we can look forward to a
bright and co-operative future. We start work on that move today; and
encourage people to checkout: https://collaboraonline.github.io/ And
to get involved.

        Of course, we would love to see TDF coming up with the right
mix of structure, entities, stability, branding, appreciation of
corporate contributions and so on to build confidence that another
approach is possible. There is time before our next LibreOffice
release in January for the community to ponder what to do with LOOL,
and to do their own thing, or support this move to capture the
benefits outlined above.

Clearly Collabora participants would want to abstain on any board vote
to ship competing Online products, but do expect to be included in the
discussion around that.

* More questions ?

        There is an FAQ on-line here:

        https://CollaboraOnline.github.io/post/faq/

* Footnote: LibreOffice rocks

In case people got confused, it is worth saying that LibreOffice is an
outstanding piece of software, produced as part of a wonderful, wide
community by some of the best developers, translators, documentors,
etc. you're likely to ever meet. We see LibreOffice as having as
a bright future in two ways:

        + as a great, rich desktop & laptop product (as now)

        + as a core LibreOffice technology - provided via LibreOfficeKit
        and UNO APIs - as a re-usable piece of Office awesomeness that can
        be built on by other projects and companies like Collabora,
        CIB, and many others to build new & valuable products.

We commend it to you, if you’ve not tried before why not:

https://www.libreoffice.org/community/get-involved/

Of course, Collabora continues to be committed to supporting and
improving our whole product mix, including LibreOffice derived bits,
and contributing back our and our customer's work to the LibreOffice
core.

-- 
michael.meeks@collabora.com <><, GM Collabora Productivity
Hangout: mejmeeks@gmail.com, Skype: mmeeks
(M) +44 7795 666 147 - timezone usually UK / Europe

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