On stupid mascots and closed source browser plugins

On stupid mascots and closed source browser plugins

Summary: Everyone's been harping on Google this week with the release of Chrome, so I thought I would be different -- today I'm going to give Adobe some love. Because I bet they feel left out.



Everyone's been harping on Google this week with the release of Chrome, so I thought I would be different -- today I'm going to give Adobe some love. Because I bet they feel left out.

Adobe's Flash and Acrobat Reader plugins are some of the most key components to the end-user Internet browsing experience. It's pretty hard to imagine rich  multimedia sites without Flash, although Microsoft is trying very hard to displace it with their .NET and Silverlight technology.

Click on the "Read the rest of this entry" link below for more.

While Flash is the most essential browser plugin, it has barely scratched the surface of being completely ubiquitous as a software development platform for everything, including embedded devices and set-tops.  The Adobe Integrated Runtime, or AIR is being heavily promoted by the company as a portable development environment that could potentially compete with Java (and .NET) for writing rich multimedia standalone apps in Flash and its associated technologies, such as FLEX. But so far, only the FLEX SDK itself is Open Source, under the MPL. The Flash Player and AIR are still closed and binary-only releases.

Why should Flash and its associated technologies be Open Sourced? Well, for starters, it would allow it to be rapidly integrated into and optimized for every single Linux distribution, and facilitate its porting to other architectures. A lot of current Flash criticism stems from a lack of a 64-bit version for both Windows and Linux -- if the code was Open Source, a huge army of community developers could be leveraged to make the plugin work on the newer architecture. Mobile phones and set top boxes, among other consumer electronics devices, are also increasingly using Linux as the embedded OS -- most of which run on processor architectures other than x86 -- they use anything from different flavors of ARM to PowerPC and MIPS-based CPUs. Want to build an open DVR platform that uses Linux using a Flash-based interface? Well, right now, you can't, unless it uses  an x86 chip running 32-bit Linux, and that's not exactly a green or ideal embedded CE platform. Sure, you can build a  Chumby and have Adobe specially license you a version for some architecture that they may have to custom build for you at a really exhorbitant cost (in Chumby's case, it uses an ARM derivative) but Chumbys are few and far between. Or maybe you want to design one of those video picture frames with a Flash or AIR UI? No can do. Flash-based cell phone? Fuggedaboudit. You see my point.

Adobe can continue to make its content development tools for Flash closed source, commercial products while at the same time Open Source the runtime engines that drive the apps.  This goes for Acrobat as well -- an Open Source Acrobat Reader would allow PDA/Cell Phones that are based on Open Source OSes (and there's going to be a lot of them soon, if Google's Android and Symbian start cracking the market) to have perfect PDF support. Sure, we have OSS PDF readers, but it would be so much better to have the real thing.

Oh and the mascot? Ditch the stupid MAX robot please. I mean, like how unoriginal can you get. How about a PDF character, that sort of looks like a twisted version of the "Bill" on Schoolhouse Rock  or Towelie from South Park? Or perhaps something along the lines of the "Adobe Flasher" -- I'm envisioning a high-tech pervert wearing dark sunglasses that opens up his trenchcoat to reveal the Flash logo to scare Silverlight fanbois. Or if Adobe is feeling tamer, a Flashdancer, in homage to the 1980's movie.

Should Flash, AIR and Acrobat be Open Sourced? Talk Back and let me know.

Topics: Software, Browser, Enterprise Software, Linux, Open Source, Operating Systems, Software Development


Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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  • RE: On stupid mascots and closed source browser plugins

    I agree, Adobe has done some great things. Can't wait to see how they integrate Adobe Share into their Reader. Hopefully it will make Reader more socially driven and less walled off.
  • Adobe Flash player: priority number 1

    It's really a pain, that Adobe Flash Player is still closed source. OK, the current version 9 for Linux, is a huge improvement upon it's predecessor, the horrible version 7.

    But version 9 is still not very stable, and worse, not available for 64 bits. I can't wait for the day that Adobe Flash Player becomes open source.
  • On stupid ideas

    Adobe doesn't need to open source Flash to get it to run on linux.
    Linux zealots need to let go of their asinine fanaticism over open
    • "asinine fanaticism"

      Now that is great coming from an Apple zealot like you... people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones
      • Precisely

        OS X cleans the floor with Linux precisely because Apple knows
        when to use open source and when to toss it out the window.
        • Darwin

          Apple didn't toss it out precisely soon enough. Open source code from Darwin was used to code around the EFI to enable booting unaltered vanilla OSX on generic hardware. How does that strike you?

    • On stupid posts

      [i]Adobe doesn't need to open source Flash to get it to run on linux. [/i]

      News for the clueless among us: Flash works fine on Linux as long as it's 32-bit Linux or or 64-bit Linux with 32-bit app compatibility. But then, it's the same as any OS because 64-bit Flash - wait for it - doesn't exist.

      RTFA. The author is saying if they open sourced Flash, we all would be using native 64-bit Flash. Not just Linux users.

      Although Linux users probably would get it first.

      none none
    • Do you like anything?

      Do you reside at the negative pole of existence? Does "A" stand for "Apple" or "anode?"

      It would be a nice change of pace if you had something nice to say once in a while instead of just picking these guys apart.

      Adobe is open sourcing so they don't need to depend on Apple or Microsoft for OS platforms for their applications. They are probably getting sick of arrogant people telling them what they can and cannot do. So they are going to collaborate with open-minded individuals.
  • Embedded flash?

    You're kidding, right?

    One instance of a FLASH player, even when stopped, sucks at least a quarter of my entire processor capacity with a dual-core 2.5 GHz system. I can tell when I've hit a Flash site just by the fact that the system fans kick into high speed.

    Three flash instances redline the box, causing all of the useful applications to grind to a halt (remember, this is even with all of the Flash instances stopped.)

    Running a CPU hog like that on a mobile device is insane from the word go.
    Yagotta B. Kidding
  • You don't say how this makes a buck for Adobe

    Are they not a for profit company?
    • Making money off of software

      is morally evil. Didn't you get the Stallman memo?
      • ROFLMAO

        Stallman and I have a very different view of the world. I happen to think that if someone is bright enough to build code others are willing to pay for then they have done a good thing.
  • No love for Adobe here.

    My mission in life is to find alternatives to all
    their products.
  • The Flash Player VM is open sourced

    Missing from this article is the fact that the <a href="http://www.adobe.com/aboutadobe/pressroom/pressreleases/200611/110706Mozilla.html">Flash Player virtual machine is open sourced</a>, with the code being donated to Mozilla almost 2 years ago.

    According to <a href="http://www.jamesward.com/wordpress/2008/05/16/where-is-64-bit-linux-support-for-flash-player/">people who work at Adobe</a>, it's porting this open source code to 64-bit that is the missing piece of the puzzle for a 64-bit Flash Player for Linux as well as Windows.

    Progress is being made, as at the FlashForward conference, a <a href="http://thebackbutton.com/blog/73/64-bit-linux-freebsd-flash-player-exists/">Flash engineer demoed the 64-bit Linux player</a>. Unfortunately, no release date has been given as there's still quite amount of work to be done.

    There's also no mention in the article about <a href="http://www.adobe.com/openscreenproject/">Open Screen Project</a>, where Adobe opened up the API layer that Flash and Adobe AIR uses to connect to hardware, so that it's easier for hardware makers to get the Flash Player or AIR working on unique hardware devices.

    Yes, the Flash Player and Adobe AIR isn't completely open sourced just yet, but in the past couple of years Adobe has been opening up more and more.