Does any open source media player stand a chance?

Does any open source media player stand a chance?

Summary: With Adobe having recently launched (with some fanfare) a big open source project, the company could quickly learn a hard lesson. If you're going to play in open source, you have to play by the open source rules, one of which is you don't try to use the law to lock out competition.

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Gnash logoGnash certainly hopes so.

Gnash is an open source Flash player, being developed under the GPL. Currently available only for Linux versions such as embedded GNU/Linux, FreeBSD, NetBSD, and OpenBSD, they're working on a Windows port.

They recently made it to Verison 0.8.2, which they are calling the first beta release. This means they want you to download it, and start bug-checking.

The idea is that you can replace the media player in your Mozilla-type browser with this one and go forward.

A sub-project is called Cygnal, and that would be an open source Flash media server. Not as far along but they're working on it.

The question is whether Adobe will let them go any further. As Seth Schoen of the EFF noted on the Gnash blog in February, Adobe has added DRM restrictions to Version 9 of its player and Version 3 of its server.

This means Adobe now has an encryption algorithm which, while transparent now, may soon become quite opaque:

He writes of the implications:

Even if users aren't targeted directly, technology developers may be threatened and the technologies the users need driven underground.

Users may also have to upgrade their Flash Player software (and open source alternatives like Gnash, which has been making rapid progress, may be unable to play the encrypted streams at all). Third-party software that can download Flash Video, like the most recent RealPlayer, will also break.

With Adobe having recently launched (with some fanfare) a big open source project, the company could quickly learn a hard lesson.

If you're going to play in open source, you have to play by the open source rules, one of which is you don't try to use the law to lock out competition.

You may want to use law to have competitors gnash their teeth, but it's not nice to fool with mother open source.

Topics: Enterprise Software, Open Source

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10 comments
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  • Gnash is still very imperfect

    I don't recommend using Gnash on your daily production computer. It's still much too buggy.

    Adobe Flash Player for Linux is really still much better (although imperfect too, but less so).

    That's my experience with both Firefox 2 and Firefox 3, both on Ubuntu 7.10 and on 8.04 beta.

    Greetz, Pjotr.
    pjotr123
    • No doubt

      Version numbers don't lie. Anything that is 0.8.2 is bound to be buggy. But if you want to support the project's move toward non-buggy code, now is the time to get at it.
      DanaBlankenhorn
      • Does any proprietory media player stand a chance?

        Welcome to the knowledge economy.

        Pssst - Govt and Penelope and Rupert, make us outlaws for out-inventing you ;-)
        fr0thy2
  • It deserves sympathy and support

    Of course I sympathize with the Gnash effort. This open source initiative certainly deserves our support.

    My post was only meant to inform potential users about the user experience they can expect at this stage.

    By the way: in general, a 0.x version can still be excellent: open source programmers are generally much more careful before declaring a 1.0 version than commercial programmers.

    Greetz, Pjotr.
    pjotr123
    • Oops... wrong thread. The above should be a response to Dana.

      (NT)
      pjotr123
  • Media Player is the wrong term here...

    When you say media player, i think of VLC, WMP, real, etc..

    Maybe interactive viewer would be better, as flash is interactive and VLC, WMP, real are not.
    Been_Done_Before
  • RE: Does any open source media player stand a chance?

    I've tried it on Ubuntu, Fedora and PCLinux powered machines and I have had issues with aome content. I suppose that Adobe looks at it as an unwelcome hack and will likely try to kill it or at minimum render it useless in the near future.
    nwoodson1
    • 11. Thou shalt make capitalism work

      ;-)
      fr0thy2
  • Microsoft and Open source software stacks are moving targets

    Right now, the Linux world is right where XP and the NT core were back in 2000. They have most of the desktop software together to go toe to toe with Microsoft but all this software needs fine tuning if it is to replace the software in the Microsoft world. The problem, though, is not Microsoft or open source. The problem is predatory vendors, like Adobe, that use vendor lock down to stay alive.

    The Expression suite in Microsoft is an Adobe killer. It is about time, too, is all I can say. The programming tools in Microsoft, though, are what keeps it dominant. They are dirt simple to use and most of them are drag and drop.

    The Trolltech QT 4 tools in Linux, though, are just as modern but they are for C and C++ down to the metal programming and Microsoft is heading in another direction for very good reasons. But Linux can easily move into the same direction because it is laid out the same way, multiple servers serving up the graphics, data, etc. The .net approach is the Unix way of doing things, though, and it won't take the Linux world long to catch up to and surpass Vista in the areas where it really shines.
    progon
  • RE: Does any open source media player stand a chance?

    Gnash is being helped out by OpenMediaNow, whose goal is to build a free infrastructure for all digital content. The only way we can beat Adobe is by providing the embedded, consumer electronic and desktop world with a viable, functional alternative. There are already ways Gnash excels in the embedded world--such as power management on consumer electronic devices and even remote control support for set-top boxes. There's a long way to go, and more funding is needed to get there faster, but I believe Gnash will be a viable alternative with different functionality than Adobe.
    OMNow