Ideas around TDF's future

Sorry, but can’t parse your sentence. Can’t find the ‘blessing’:

To me, both sound like a bane.
Only a lapse? Or what do I not understand here?

Hi @S.t.e.p.h,

Then you are either willfully creating false equivalence or suffering from the perception of that, because in the real world no text has meaning without interpretation – your only choice is between having one or multiple ones. If that were not the case, we would have an algorithm (or unaffiliated lawyers) in control of the foundations resources instead of elected human individuals.



Hello everyone,

My name is John Mills and I am a new member of The Document Foundation as of last month, I am immensely proud to join this group that I feel is so beneficial to many millions of people world wide. I happened upon this discussion and wanted to provide my perspective that I feel many others may share.

Firstly I want to say that I have used LibreOffice from the first version and before that Go Open Office as it had all of the new cool stuff! So I do have some experience of the software. I became interested in Open Office many years ago as I was quite a poor student and could not afford the ridiculous costs of Microsoft Office, I had two real choices, either I find an alternative or I just illegally installed Microsoft Office. I needed good comparability with Microsoft Word as I was expected to hand in my assignments in this format.

At the time I was not well versed in the culture and nuances of what it meant to be a part of a community and only wanted Open Office because it was a suitable replacement that was free (gratis) and I feel that many other students were like me. I still do. I whole heartedly believe that people are looking for products that fill a requirement and that notions of community engagement are so far out of many users thoughts as to be almost non existent, that is of course no reason to explain the benefits of FLOSS software and the community around these products.

This is why it is crucial that TDF does not charge for binary downloads, it is my opinion that this obsticle would just move users to products like Only Office or much worse WPS, Kingsoft and other proprietary software.

I would say this move would also be financially counter productive as you would not recieve the donations that some users graciously make. I was discussing yesterday on the Design Telegram channel how critical digital liberty is. I’ll copy this below.

*"This is the important part for me in the preamble.

"This software (I assume this means LibreOffice) will be openly available for free use by anyone for their own files, including companies and public authorities, ensuring full participation in a digital society and without detriment to intellectual property.

If you are forced out of the digital society your life is materially more difficult. This is why we must encourage adoption of floss solutions."*

By charging for binaries you would be making the lives of those least able to afford other solutions move from FLOSS to proprietary solutions or simply pirate the software that does not respect their digital freedoms. Like I mentioned before most people have no idea of this they just want a free product, however those who understand that it is a noble cause to help these people realise that are doing our small part to empower them and spread the values TDF stands for. I know that is a good thing.

LibreOffice is a fantastic product and great community of people, I think along with the likes of Mozilla Firefox this software is probably the most important desktop software available. Perhaps it is a diminishing market but it is immensely important for student, small businesses and government institutions and the use of ODF as a format spreads document interoperability far and wide.

So I would just ask those that advocate for making binary downloads non free to just think of the larger picture and the potential harm a move like this could cause if a first rate product like LibreOffice becomes a paid for product.

Many thanks all and I look forward to communicating with you again in the future.

Kind regards,



Hi John,

I dont think anyone advocates for that here.

LibreOffice is a project, not a product – public perception notwithstanding.

Best Regards,


Hi Sweetshark (Bjoern),

I always think of LibreOffice as a product and a community, is this the wrong association to have?

I download the LibreOffice software (product), I can not download the LibreOffice community.

I celebrate the release of version 7.6 product in a few weeks. I can not celebrate version 7.6 of the community.

King regards,


Hello John,

First of all welcome to our community and thank you for participating.


Hi Bjoern,

Again, from Wikipedia:

a product is an object, or system, or service made available for consumer use as of the consumer demand

There are lots of other definitions like this. LibreOffice is a project, yes; but the end result (and what we offer) is a binary installer for end-user software that consumers use. It is by Wikipedia’s and many other definitions a project, with a resulting product.

You see it differently, but almost every definition out there would classify the end-user software that consumers download and install a product. Therefore, LibreOffice is both a project, and a product.

On this topic:

TDF does not universally provide binaries, just a selection

TDF provides binaries for Windows, macOS and Linux, which together make up the vast majority of desktop operating system users. Indeed, looking at the stats, the next biggest desktop OS is FreeBSD, which (while awesome) is tiny. So with TDF providing binaries for 95%+ of desktop operating systems (or even more, depending on the stats source), that’s pretty close to universal, and far more than “just a selection”.

I dont think anyone advocates for that here.

Why do you think it’s important to state that “zur freien Nutzung” doesn’t necessarily mean “zero cost”?


Hi @jmills59 ,

Somewhat. I know the Document Foundation puts out videos highlighting the new features of each major release, but like all good marketing that is a bit of lying by omission, as there is nobody doing product management at the foundation and there is not even someone prioritizing one feature over another at TDF. Features, the focus in those videos and other marketing material, are rarely even coordinated at TDF: In the release train model used by LibreOffice, for the most part, not even the release manager is having a major influence on the features of a release, because the features of a release are whatever has been added by contributors to the master branch on the day of branch off.

So who is managing features at the foundation? The calendar mostly (and the contributors).

As such, the “product” of TDF is the fact that there will be regular major releases and updates, with whatever the contributors provide. The product of the foundation is that there will be releases, but not what is in those releases.

Product management and providing specific features to non-contributing users is not something the foundation is able to provide – nor should it(*).

All the above is not a narrative that would be easy to tell, so we omit most of it for the outside audience – see @italovignoli s recent posts on that. But that does not change the reality of how the sausage is made. :wink:

Best Regards,


(*) There are both companies and individuals in the ecosystem that can do that though, which is great for users who do not want or cannot be contributors.

I’m sorry but I really must take issue with this perspective.
The “product” of TDF is the fact there will be regular major releases and updates? How can the TDF ensure that there will be any new major releases or updates if there’s no product planning whatsoever, no roadmap for desired/planned features nor any coordination of work to implement complex features besides launching a few tenders?

The TDF should do an effort to do product management and providing specific features, because without those there is no major releases. If you even admit that this narrative is not easy to sell and should be omitted (ironic to even mention that in a public forum) it’s because deep down you know that it is a rotten perspective and effectively you are misleading users about the TDF should actually provide. It should be omitted for the simple reason that outside observers would rightly reach the conclusion that the TDF is an ineffectual organization that does little to ensure that “the sausage” is actually good.

Also what do you define as “non-contributing users”? I’ve donated money in the past, and contribute multiple bug reports. If the philosophy you advocate is effectively how the majority thinks that the TDF should be run and LibO developed then I feel cheated and tricked out of my time and money.
I will refrain to ellaborate further on how despicable I think that position is.


from what I see in public here, there is clear feedback.

Not sure what you base your numbers on. Looking at the 2022 budget (Preliminary budget for 2022) we have salaries and compensations 694.840,88 €, various tenders 414.053,54 € and new various tenders 400.000 €. Doesn’t match my definition of “minor”.

And even that one was already seen as “competing with the ecosystem” by some.

Ah, I feel quite on top of things and not confused at all, don’t worry. :wink:

There’s an article from 2011 at German reputable publisher Heise (Die Freiheit, die ich meine … | heise online) that literally says “and at the same time further develop both the community and the product” (German original: “und gleichzeitig sowohl die Community als auch das Produkt weiterzuentwickeln”).

This also matches how we presented TDF and LibreOffice e.g. the various events and trade shows in 2012, the year of incorporation.

Also our annual reports mention “product” (German: “Produkt”) repeatedly, and as I always explain to the board, “the activity report needs to outline how the foundation fulfilled its objectives in 2022 and must give a full overview of its activities.”

So, when TDF was setup, the idea was “free of charge”. Some might have changed their opinion today, but that’s why I am glad we setup a foundation, with objectives that can essentially not be modified. That includes the free of charge, because our statutes are also inspired by the manifesto.

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Hi @mikesaunders,

That is a bit of self selecting though, because productivity is not just “desktop”. Desktop productivity use itself is getting more and more a corner case: In my day jobs, “desktop” productivity software have not been used anymore by my employers for a decade at least already. Now, the future is not evenly distributed, but the desktop itself is becoming irrelevant.
Are there still people using “desktop” software? Sure, but it is hardly universal in the way you are arguing.

A common trap people fall into is that assuming the LibreOffice project is something you can just wish for your feature to be implemented free of charge or without a contribution (or worse: to be bought by donation). That is obviously not how that works or can work, so it is important that “free of charge” is not a goal in itself, but means: it is the easiest way to unlock and generate future contribution.

By extension, the foundation needs to carefully consider other investments (like e.g. hosting productivity solutions beyond desktop binaries) on if they also enable enable or unlock future contribution in the same way.

Best Regards,

I’m not sure what the argument around a project or product means in practical terms. I mean, if LibreOffice is not a product and TDF is not an organization about a product, what that means in practical terms?

IMHO, TDF’s lack of involvement in “product management” is one of the great failures of LibreOffice (which I did raise back in 2019, so it is not a new opinion of mine), since volunteers can’t fill that role and companies only care about their customers, so who looks after the needs of LibreOffice users? I was hoping that TDF hiring developers is a change in this direction.

Though it is common for open source projects to not care about non-contributing users, certainly a non-profit organization shouldn’t be structured that way, or what is the point of being tax-exempted non-profit if it only cares about its contributors. There is certainly some form of industry consortium that could have been formed instead.


Hi Florian,

I don’t see anyone disagreeing, that having something like a tangible “product” out there was (and is) a very useful thing for TDF to do. And of course the messaging (and this article is a PR statement), in particular at the beginning of the fork, when we were up against OpenOffice, which very clearly was marketed and developed as a product - it was quite mandatory to uphold the impression that we were “similar-just-better”.

It’s just not something that is at the very core of an OpenSource Foundation. I agree with @Sweetshark and others, that providing such “products” are a means to an end, to grow and nurture the community of contributors.

Best, Thorsten

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Hi @khaledhosny2 ,

The societal benefits of OpenSource (that includes everyone: individual citizens, companies, and the public sector) are undisputed and huge: see e.g. this joinup article from 2012, or the more recent (and more modest, in terms of value) one from the EU Connect Directorate.

So I don’t think this product-vs-code distinction is something that in general affects the beneficial nature of an OpenSource foundation towards society. As such, it probably does not help us in this discussion.

Best, Thorsten

HI @khaledhosny2, Hi @floeff,

I think you raise a few good points, but before being able to care for the needs and desires of non-contributing users, one needs to have an agreement on what those are. A product(*) – unlike a service – inherently wants to minimize the interaction between user and provider. A product free of charge uncouples the user from the provider practically entirely. As such, I am very suspicious about anyone arguing to act on behalf of them.

What the LibreOffice project reliably knows is contributors and it can assume they care for the users (otherwise they would not spend their resources here). Their input (by the trustees via the board of directors) is the best guidance on the direction of the project you can get.

I know, but I think most would naively assume a larger share to be spend on development. Also note that while salaries have been reliably spend, TDF doesnt have the best track record in really spending what was budgeted for tenders (and not all tenders are about code). So the real investment by TDF in code is most certainly lower than most users, donors and contributors expect. Im not saying that is good or bad btw – just that common perception likely quite off here.

LibreOffice is a democratic community and an meritocratic project and not a church or a cult. As such, we dont need priests who interpret the words of prophets from decades gone by, but need to hear the active contributors in 2023 how they see the objectives of the project.

Best Regards,

(*) According to the German wikipedia a product is a “result of an organization that can be produced without any transaction between organization and customer” in ISO9000.

I hope I can still be seen as an active contributor :slight_smile:
I believe LibreOffice the product is empowering communities and is able to save lifes. That is where I’m proud to contribute to the product and where I’m happy to be contracted by TDF to further give people a mean to collect, analyze, illustrate and document the information and the data they need on their daily life wherever they are in the world.

We have, almost each month translators in new languages. Translating less spoken or endangered languages is not only for the beauty of the contribution, LibreOffice here has a key importance because it keeps the language active and evolving and it lets people express themselves in their own language.

So speaking about TDF future, I hope it will still reaffirm its mission of:

  • eliminate the digital divide in society by giving everyone access to office productivity tools free of charge to enable them to participate as full citizens in the 21st century
  • support the preservation of mother tongues by encouraging all peoples to translate, document, support, and promote our office productivity tools in their mother tongue
  • allow users of office productivity software to retain the intellectual property in the documents they create by use of open document formats and open standards
  • an open and transparent peer-reviewed software development process where technical excellence is valued

I’m an open source contributor since 23 years now and I’m well aware on how much it has evolved. I’m also well connected with other foundations, like Eclipse or Software Heritage and others. Which is quite amazing how a collective approach to open source has to differ from one foundation to another to cover the world needs, that’s great :slight_smile:

So fortunately, TDF is not dedicated to develop and promote open source products for the business market, but include the 3 bullet points above that makes it relevant for many more communities and niche usage. That’s up to us to attract them as a community through diversity and inclusiveness (not only in the community but also by product offers), but also by listening to and understanding their needs and being creative to include and answer them. We are not there in my opinion at the moment.


Have you considered users reporting issues or asking for enhancements on Bugzilla?

Hi @sophi, Hi @htietze,

I wrote:

causing @htietze to ask:

You mean taking random enhancement requests that ask for a contribution to LibreOffice and tendering them with a random amount of money? No, I have not considered doing that without consulting with experts who can judge those requests.

Who might be an expert on possible contributions to the LibreOffice project? I think it might be … contributors. Just a guess though.

I think most of that is great, some things need to be updated. I think I drafted something for that a few years ago, I will see if I can still find it.

Best Regards,


Hi Florian,

Hmm, so the actual amount planned for 2023, to spend on staff (including contractors) is about 910k €. Adding to that recurring costs like infra, accounting, conferences, community events & other incidentals, the overall annual recurring expenses is about 1.2M € - with a donation income of around 1.3M € (for 2022), that does not leave that much for anything else, including tenders (in a steady-state situation - that there is a certain backlog of tender projects was already mentioned).

Edit: given the fact that we additionally & usually save around 10% of the overall donation income of each year into a rainy day fund, what’s left for any projects (code-related tenders are the majority, but not 100% of project work) on a steady-state basis, is I would say minor in comparison.

Best, Thorsten

To add on that: The sum planned for projects including tenders for 2023 is 770.008,91 €.