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For those unwilling or unable to purchase Microsoft Office, the open source project OpenOffice has long been an excellent alternative. But it now looks as if the free productivity suite could be shut down unless more volunteer developers come on board.
Ars Technica reports that Dennis Hamilton, volunteer vice president of Apache OpenOffice, sent out an email thread stating: "It is my considered opinion that there is no ready supply of developers who have the capacity, capability, and will to supplement the roughly half-dozen volunteers holding the project together." He added that no decisions had yet been made, but "retirement of the project is a serious possibility."
Many of OpenOffice’s volunteers have left to work on LibreOffice - a fork of OpenOffice that launched in 2011. Its updates arrive more frequently than OpenOffice: 14 in 2015 alone, which is a lot more than the single update OpenOffice received across the whole of last year.
The dearth of volunteers has meant that dealing with security vulnerabilities has posed a problem. Apache informed users of a vulnerability in June that could let attackers craft denial-of-service attacks and execute arbitrary code. The company suggested users switch to Microsoft Office or LibreOffice as a solution. A patch that needed to be manually installed was released a month later, but security problems remain.
Another issued face by OpenOffice is that the few developers still working there are “aging,” and that working there isn’t “much of a resume builder.”
Despite the lack of updates, OpenOffice was downloaded more than 29 million times on Windows and Mac last year, making a cumulative total of 160 million downloads since May 2012, according to project statistics.
While there are plenty of people who want OpenOffice to continue by finding other ways of attracting new contributors, the signs aren’t looking good for the open source software.