back to article 'It's where the industry is heading': LibreOffice team working on WebAssembly port

The LibreOffice team has been working on a port to browser-hosted WebAssembly, and hopes for a working demo by summer 2021. "It's the way the industry is heading," said Document Foundation board member Thorsten Behrens. Browser-based versions of the open-source office productivity suite already exist in the form of Collabora …

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  1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    An Inevitable Consequence and Pleasant Result with Advancing Intelligence Sharing ‽ .

    The browser/browsers are the Operating System. And taken logically to its ultimate conclusion, that means you ....... and whenever you see/understand and can realise that, are you a relatively anonymous, and certainly at random times also an autonomous and almighty powerful source and/or force to be reckoned with/dealt with/engaged with ....... for the very simple, and easily understood reason, there be those who so realise that be the situation, that it drives them quite crazy and across to practices which have them having to hide and deny that deep and dark side of their interests which are decidedly and designedly destructive to others?

    Get yourself hopelessly, helplessly entangled in that field and you had better know exactly what you should be doing, and hope that you haven't been doing anything awful, for there be others in there who certainly do, and would take no prisoners nor show any mercy to those worthy of divine retribution and natural justice for what they have done and would do.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: An Inevitable... ...Intelligence Sharing ‽ .

      4 thumbs up

      2 thumbs down

      Fixed

      Yet no rack owned to stick @

      Is there anyone who can fix this for *little me*'

      Q feels rhetoric though

    2. 45RPM Silver badge

      Re: An Inevitable Consequence and Pleasant Result with Advancing Intelligence Sharing ‽ .

      Wow. That was some weapons grade waffle. But have a thumbs up for a) melting my fragile brain and b) using the interrobang. I haven’t seen that in years!

      1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

        Re: An Inevitable Consequence and Pleasant Result with Advancing Intelligence Sharing ‽ .

        Waffle? You be surely dreaming, 45RPM ....... or possibly hoping.

        And whether for or against the notions and motions is wholly dependent upon how good or how bad you want things to be for yourself.

        Take care. Beware. Who dares care share win wins. It's the new IoT Way of the Internet of Things?

  2. sreynolds

    If this is the future...

    Then we're all fucked.

    1. oiseau Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: If this is the future...

      Then we're all fucked.

      You beat me to it.

      +1 and a case of stout for you because I can only upvote you once. 8^7

      But I think it reads better if it says "Then we're all thoroughly fucked."

      O.

      1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Re: If this is the future...

        Yup, and without the benefit of getting laid.

    2. Bitbeisser
      Devil

      Re: If this is the future...

      Yeah...

      "This is the way everyone's heading!" (Famous last words of a lemming)

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

  3. Mike 137 Silver badge

    WHY?

    Yes sreynolds, well said.

    Yet another abstraction layer - metal, OS, browser, application. So more memory and higher processor speed needed, but no gain to the user and lots of security concerns.

    1. DrXym Silver badge

      Re: WHY?

      What? There is obvious benefit even for chunks of LibreOffice to be available as webassembly modules:

      - Parse documents from a variety of formats

      - Exporting to ODT / ODS / ODP, and a variety of other formats

      - Manipulate documents

      - Render docs as PDF

      - Generate reports

      - Utilise the spreadsheet engine

      - Utilise the grammar checker

      etc.

      It doesn't impact the desktop so why do you care?

      And even supposing Libreoffice offered access to the suite through the cloud, you're saying there is no gain for users either? Yes such a service would have to have security just like any web software.

      That is besides the point really since it doesn't stop you using the desktop version. And who knows, perhaps if LibreOffice could make cash from selling software as a service to those who want it would help fund further development of the project as a whole.

  4. Gene Cash Silver badge

    It's the way the industry is heading

    So they're doing it because it's the latest fad?

    Sounds like a great reason to waste coding resources!

    1. Steve Channell
      Thumb Up

      Re: It's the way the industry is heading

      Libra Office on WebAssembly is probably cheaper than re-writing as a HTML5 app, so a reasonable strategy. To survive, Libra/Open Office needs to protect the flank from Microsoft and Google with some kind of web-editor, but it is niche (nice to have) for normal office users.

      Where it is interesting is to provide a benchmark for other desktop apps considering the need for multi-platform deployment.. to look a the performance and bloat and make a decision based on someone else’s pain. The big news in this area will be Microsoft Foundation Classes (MFC) as Web-Assembly.

      1. bazza Silver badge

        Re: It's the way the industry is heading

        What I find amusing is that all those companies that have done HTML5, CSS and Javascript versions of their applications are probably realising that they've wasted their time. Maturing Web Assembly versions of the tool kits they used on native platforms and just targeting their existing app source code at a different compiler will probably become seen as the better way to go.

        Given that html5 apps basically suck, and Web assembly apps may be less objectionable, are we seeing the beginning of the end for html5 apps?

        1. sabroni Silver badge

          Re: Given that html5 apps basically suck

          No they don't. Both Google docs and office 365 are perfectly serviceable.

          Is your experience of html5 apps limited to those you wrote?

          1. needmorehare
            Facepalm

            Yes, they do suck.

            Business use case: Create an encrypted spreadsheet (Office XP could do this in 2001)

            Marketing use case: Perform a mail merge involving custom dynamic fields (available since Office 97)

            Academic use case: Adding references to your document (Available since Word 2007)

            Missing packages: Where's the personal database software? Where is LO Base and/or MS Access?

            When decades old software beats out the latest and greatest in common use cases, even when billion dollar companies are involved, you know that these new-fangled HTML5 apps suck. Even more so when entire packages are dropped as a result.

    2. oiseau Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: It's the way the industry is heading

      Sounds like a great reason to waste coding resources!

      Sounds like?

      It is.

      Nothing but a waste of coding resources.

      You'd think they would have the basic common sense to dedicate it to ironing out all the bugs in LO.

      Jerks ...

      O.

  5. Abominator

    So another bloated web app that will need a browser running at 1.5GB, lots of threads and high local CPU usage. When will people learn. Don't even get be started on the cretinous UI's.

    The only reason for this is to perpetuate the subscription pay for model which businesses love to create nice predictable steady revenues they can ratchet up.

  6. Neil Barnes Silver badge
    Big Brother

    some success compiling the code, but unfortunately it mostly does not work

    Story of my life, I'm afraid...

    1. midcapwarrior

      Re: some success compiling the code, but unfortunately it mostly does not work

      "team has had some success compiling the code, but unfortunately it mostly does not work"

      Ability to compile as a measure of success seems to be pretty low bar

  7. alain williams Silver badge

    "good for security"

    the document lives on the server, which is good for security

    Maybe if it is your own server, but I can see many running this on xyz-random.com server ... and we see plenty of stories of these being cracked and files exfiltrated, not to mention the NSA grabbing a copy by using the Patriot Act.

    1. oiseau Silver badge
      WTF?

      Re: "good for security"

      ... the document lives on the server, which is good for security ...

      I wonder if the DH that said this can actually keep a straight face while spewing such rubbish.

      I mean, the chap does work in some IT related business, yes?

      Absolutely incredible ...

      O.

    2. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: "good for security"

      I also want to know what reasons they think they have for that statement. A document that's stored on a server and rendered on a client is also on the client. The client can take a copy through many means. So why is stored-on-server more secure than stored-on-client when client security is important either way? If it was something like a database where the client only sees a portion of the data, then it would be more secure there, but it's an individual document all of which the user can see.

  8. LDS Silver badge

    "more powerful than a typical PC back in the '90s"

    Yes, and the browser-based bloatware dissipates much of it.... while gatehring "telemetry" to be sent to our overlords... every time I can run a native application it's a relief...

  9. Mage Silver badge
    Devil

    It's the way the industry is heading

    A totally stupid reason.

    The reason some companies are doing it is to stop selling SW and only rent it. Also so called Cloud based gives them more control.

    Web based is fine for collaborative. It's a stupid bonkers model for local applications with data used by one person at a time.

    Less secure, less private, lower availability, bigger resource and environmental footprint.

    Any Web version has to be purely a complementary option, NEVER the default.

    1. sgp

      Re: It's the way the industry is heading

      But for that reason (collaboration) I'm happy to see another option than MS and Google appear. Maybe some cloud file service like Dropbox can host a version of it and provide a bit of competition for those two. That said, I'm not too sure porting the LO codebase is going to be a success.

    2. Evil Auditor Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: It's the way the industry is heading

      A totally stupid reason.

      I totally agree.

      Did they, did someone, ever sit back and think what is actually needed and would improve its usability? I'm almost certainly not the typical user - probably neither are the other Reg readers here - and I genuinly wonder if nowadays office suites actually fulfil someone's, anyone's needs. (In the meantime, at least, I figured how NOT to open a document in the browser.)

    3. ThatOne Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: It's the way the industry is heading

      > Less secure, less private, lower availability, bigger resource and environmental footprint.

      But so much cooler... Wake up and smell the cloud! Working on your own computer with your own programs is so darn difficult to monetize, "they" have been trying to get rid of it for ages (remember "thin client", way before "the cloud"?).

      So what is LibreOffice doing here? What do they hope to achieve? Prevent LibreOffice piracy? Better monetize their own cloud solution? Frighten Google and its Google Docs Editors? Really? It's all just raw, uncontrolled pride.

      1. oiseau Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: It's the way the industry is heading

        It's all just raw, uncontrolled pride sheer stupidity.

        There you go, tidied up a bit. 8^7

        O.

    4. druck Silver badge

      Re: It's the way the industry is heading

      One of the main reason I use Libre Office is that the program is 100% downloaded to my machine and the document is 100% on my machine. As long as I have power, no cloud, and no network gets in the way. Once the document is written I can fling it as far in to the cloud as I like, but I still have my local copy.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @druck - Re: It's the way the industry is heading

        Yeah, but you can't be properly monetized so nobody is interested.

      2. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

        Re: LOVE of CHAOS ..... A Norm of Advanced IntelAIgent Default

        druck .... "One of the main reason I use Libre Office is that the program is 100% downloaded to my machine and the document is 100% on my machine. As long as I have power, no cloud, and no network gets in the way. Once the document is written I can fling it as far in to the cloud as I like, but I still have my local copy."

        Anonymous Coward .... "Yeah, but you can't be properly monetized so nobody is interested."

        Oh? Surely it is more the case of "Yeah, but others can't be improperly monetized so a nobody isn't interested."

        Write any great document, which you have complete command and carbon copy control over, and fling it out into the Live Operational Virtual Environments of Clouds Hosting Alienating Operating Systems which are Astute and Autonomous and Advanced and Augmented and ACTive and Almighty, and no fool tool will tell you it cannot be both personally privately and publicly unbelievably rewarding to colossal excess and monumental success, with proper monetisation by all interested an added bonus guaranteeing future growth and excess with successive iterations.

        And ...... there are those and that which will feel duty bound to lavish absolute fortunes on principal parties, authorising and imploring one to either stop with the practice ASAP, for it be so presently catastrophically disruptive and so suddenly, systemically destructive, or continue at full speed ahead with the lush payments freely deposited and graciously and gratefully received in lieu of an appreciative encouraging reward and investment in more of the novel creative same in the pipelines and destined still yet to come.

        For some would that be as a Hellish Problem to Fail to Defeat with Bitter Battles, however, ...... for A.N.Others, is IT with AI as a Heavenly Delight to be Enjoyed and Employed, Exploited and Expanded Upon.

        1. wobball

          Re: LOVE of CHAOS ..... A Norm of Advanced IntelAIgent Default

          Your a bot right? A bullshit, nonsense bot, sent to bore us into submission, right?

          1. sabroni Silver badge
            Thumb Down

            Re: Your a bot right? A bullshit, nonsense bot,

            Used to be. Was more interesting then. Now it reads like human curated bot output.

            Any chance of an 'ignore posts from this user" feature, el reg?

            1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

              Re: Your a bot right? A bullshit, nonsense bot,

              Now it reads like human curated bot output. ..... sabroni

              Now that sounds like some novel progress has been made engaging with caring humans, sabroni, ... one's that can decide whether to be ignorant El Reg residents or not for themselves.

              First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. ... Mahatma Gandhi

              What stage[s] do you thing everything is at, sabroni, and on and at what stage[s] are you performing?

              One thing is for sure though, if the present doesn't suit or please you, the future is going to be a real trial and extremely rocky trail which you will do well to survive and prosper on intact with the full use of all available faculties remaining to server your meagre pickings with unspirited means.

              And one wonders now at what raw nerve has been so provoked as to warrant in your head, such an attack of mean unnecessary unpleasantness ...... although a tough and bad day at the office is a common enough default well abused by many and too numerous to even begin to count?

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Your... ...bot

                a pretty well-read and understood msg, amanfromMars.

                how strange that noone asks what kind of chemistry should be carbonised. this is a question that makes a reader ponder at.

                a suggestion exists, of course.

                anon by reason.

    5. MrReynolds2U

      Re: It's the way the industry is heading

      I can see a good reason however... the vast majority of CRMs are now web-based. I've tried using Google docs with this and it's vastly missing features. There is apparently a way to link into Office365 but again, you end up losing features (things like headers and footers get messed up). So, if they can bring out a working version, they might well have a future as a choice for online CRM and groupware companies.

      1. ThatOne Silver badge

        Re: It's the way the industry is heading

        > I can see a good reason however... the vast majority of CRMs are now web-based

        The word "good" is totally unjustified. Yes, it's a reason, probably even the only one, but actually a bad one. As someone else already said, it's akin to the "billions of flies can't be wrong, eat dung" reasoning.

        (Didn't downvote you though)

    6. sabroni Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: A totally stupid reason.

      You're a bunch of cart manufacturers laughing at the new fangled "motor car".

      "We won't be wasting our money or time working on internal combustion engines, too heavy, look how light my new axle is!!"

      1. sabroni Silver badge

        Re: A totally stupid reason.

        Like "runs on any device with a browser" isn't a useful feature.

        1. ThatOne Silver badge

          Re: A totally stupid reason.

          > Like "runs on any device with a browser" isn't a useful feature.

          Indeed, it isn't. What's your point?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A totally stupid reason.

        ""We won't be wasting our money or time working on internal combustion engines, [...]"

        Now if they had invested in improving their electric cars they would have been ahead of the curve. The ICE solved the problem of cities being increasingly polluted by horse manure - and replaced it with other pollutants.

        In the UK attempts are being made to re-open stretches of railway lines axed in the 1960s when lorries and cars were seen as the future of transport. Home working is reverting to the distributed style prior to the industrial revolution.

        "Every solution breeds new problems"

  10. karlkarl Silver badge

    One of the main benefits of open-source was it could avoid heading in the same stupid directions as the money driven industry.

    It is a little sad to see LibreOffice wasting their time. However, so long as it doesn't impact negatively the "real" version, I don't see it as an issue. Perhaps they can get a few quick bucks that will help fund lasting improvements to the software.

    1. LDS Silver badge

      " it could avoid heading in the same stupid directions as the money"

      But it wasn't ever able to avoid heading in the same stupid directions as fashion....

      1. Steve K Silver badge

        Re: " it could avoid heading in the same stupid directions as the money"

        .and indeed some stupid directions of its own making?

  11. nijam

    > It's where the industry is heading

    The same kind of reasoning as "Eat shit, billions of insects can't be wrong."

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So instead of 125Meg to run a basic wordprocessor it will now be 500Meg plus..

    I've used StarOffice / OpenOffice / LibraOffice for more than 20 years because it mostly works, it reads all .doc files (which MS Word doesnt) and is unlikely to go away. No other reason.

    The codebase was always a mess and there is absolutely no need for a 125Meg footprint for a level of functionality little different than what took a around a 1Meg footprint back in the late 1980's. Just very sloppy coding. Of course we had to write the core line layout and frame layout functions in assembler back then (for speed) but as I look at the feature set, when it comes to actual real world use scenarios, I just see massive bloat.

    If anyone bothered to actually profile the code they would find that a good 95% plus of that 125M was due to very bad code partitioning with serious dependency fan out. Low frequency calls accounting for most of the module inter-dependency. And a good 80% of the feature code used to support user work scenarios that account for < 0.001% of all actual real world usage.

    Featuritis makes perfect sense for commercial products in a regular upgrade cycle. You need the income. But for not-commercial product featuritis just adds to code entropy with zero change in the feature use frequency profile. Purely dead weight.

    So Libre Office is usable for casual use but for real world daily professional use it was never really in the running. I see far too many real bugs that indicate serious code problems even in causal use. When you have written a couple of WP/DTP codebases over the decades its very easy to not only spot the bugs but work out the most probably why for them.

    So why dont I dive in and fix the bugs I see? Because I looked through the source code when Sun first open sourced it and having waded through the swamp for a little while said - No Thanks., I'm outta here. Seen way too much code like in the past. In commercial products. Always either thrown away eventually and rewritten or else the product died eventually under the weight of bugs. I need to get paid good money to do that kind of very frustrating low productivity work

    So any WebAssembly version will be unstable and buggy as hell. Absolutely guaranteed.

    Will look good on someones resume though.

    1. 45RPM Silver badge

      Re: So instead of 125Meg to run a basic wordprocessor it will now be 500Meg plus..

      1Meg? I used to run Wordstar in 32K. Supercalc needed no more either, nor DBase II if it comes to that. 1Meg is bloat!

      And MacWrite used to run, with a GUI recognisable and usable by da yoof ov tooday, in 128k. I mean, it was rubbish, but it ran.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: So instead of 125Meg to run a basic wordprocessor it will now be 500Meg plus..

        Ah yes. But that version of Wordstar was not a full-screen WYSIWYG WP with page layout features and integrated graphics. Think Quark XPress 2.0 level features but a few years earlier. And a lot more usable. The actual footprint for a full graphics largish doc with footnotes etc was around 160K to 200K. Not sure of the numbers for the earlier MS/DOS versions of WordStar but WordStar2000 had a hell of a lot of code overlays. So code kept getting swapped in and out. From the floppy disk. Thats why people bough AT's and installed it on the 5Meg harddrive. All those overlay loads.

        As for MacWrite on the 128K Mac. As there was only 59K total memory for the application on the 128K so MacWrite tended to crap out after about 4 or 5 pages. If I remember correctly it started throwing TRAPV exceptions not even BombBoxes if you pushed it too hard.

        Now MacWrite on the 512K Mac was very usable and useful. As was WriteNow. Wrote multi hundred page documentation on a 1Meg MacPlus using them. Still miss WriteNow.

        1. bazza Silver badge

          Re: So instead of 125Meg to run a basic wordprocessor it will now be 500Meg plus..

          Wordstar was WYSIWYG, at least it was with the printer I had...

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