Thirty-three contributors to the OpenOffice.org project are leaving, unhappy with what they say is Oracle's attitude toward the project's organisation and management.
The contributors, who are mostly from the German-speaking OpenOffice.org community, comprise translators, others in marketing and quality assurance and at least one developer. They will join others who are backing The Document Foundation, which was founded in September to continue the project outside OpenOffice.org, now under the purview of Oracle.
"Essentially the German project on OpenOffice.org is being almost orphaned," said Charles Schulz, spokesman for The Document Foundation.
The open-source office productivity suite came under Oracle's control when it acquired Sun Microsystems earlier this year. Oracle has said it plans to continue the project, but the transition has been marked by tension.
The contributors wrote in an e-mail posting on Sunday that they will join LibreOffice, a new distribution of OpenOffice.org that will be controlled by The Document Foundation.
Citing "unnecessary misunderstandings" with Oracle and an alleged lack of direction on the part of the software giant, the contributors said the change is necessary to allow the project to evolve.
"Although it has been stressed several times that there will be collaboration on a technical level, and changes are possible - there is no indication from Oracle to change its mind on the question of the project organisation and management," the contributors wrote.
The defection is not an unexpected shift, as Oracle's acquisition of Sun and another major open-source database project, MySQL, also caused concern over how the software giant would treat a project that competes on some levels with its proprietary products.
OpenOffice.org is an outgrowth of the StarOffice suite, which was developed by the German company StarDivision. Sun then bought StarDivision in 1999 and launched OpenOffice.org, which was based on StarOffice, in 2000. Oracle says the suite has more than 100 million users.
When The Document Foundation was launched in late September, Oracle said that beauty of open source software "is that it can be forked by anyone who chooses."
"Our sincerest goal for Open Office is that it become more widely used so if this new foundation will help advance Open Office and the Open Document Format we wish them the best," Oracle said in a statement at the time.