This morning some people involved with OpenOffice.org forked the software. is an open source office productivity suite originally controlled by Sun and now Oracle that includes a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation application, and other software. With OpenOffice.org you get two things at once, both a website and the name of the application. That’s right, because of trademark concerns, they needed to stick the “.org” in the application name.
Whatever the exact reason, I have always thought this was silly. Even if the name was abbreviated to OO.o, something just seemed off. I’m sure most people just called it OpenOffice. I did, except when Sun people were in the room.
Sometimes you just need to come up with a completely new name instead of doing something odd to the one you love. I would have recommended that for OO.o, but no one asked me.
The new fork is called LibreOffice. Is this an office suite for astrologers or librarians who can’t spell? What if I write it as LibreOffice? Libre is a word that means “free” as in “with few or no restrictions” vs. “at zero price”. So that’s a very free-and-open-sourcey name for this new fork of the office software. I think it will take a while for people to get used to the new name, much less pronounce it. I myself am very pronunciation-challenged, and I’m waiting for someone else to say it out loud so I can repeat it to myself a few times.
In other renaming news, the open source effort formerly called the CodePlex Foundation is now the OuterCurve Foundation. I’ll admit to not knowing what a CodePlex is (unlike, say, an iDataPlex), but I’m also not sure about OuterCurve. Does it refer to racing? Baseball?
Basic naming is hard, but even harder is coming up with a name that has a website available. You also have to avoid trademarks that are for products close to what you are providing. Here “close” is relative and your sense of it probably differs from the attorney of the company that is suing you for infringement. It’s cheaper, though not always cheap, to do the early research to come up with an available name.
I have some experience with this. In the middle 1990s I came up with some software that would display text and mathematical expressions on web pages and in a standalone browser. I cleverly came up with the name “techexplorer,” thinking that the software would be used for exploring technical documents. Thenaming police did not like this at all. It wasn’t descriptive enough to differentiate it from other possible uses of the word “techexplorer,” none of which I could find. Therefore the official name became the “techexplorer Hypermedia Browser.”
Ouch. I still cringe at that. I should have found a completely new name as I suggested above.
Good luck to all parties with their new names.