Why I don't think open source Flash is necessary

Why I don't think open source Flash is necessary

Summary: Ted Leung had a lot of good points in his post about the Flash Player and Adobe opening up. I'd love to see an open source player down the road, but I think right now, Adobe is making the right moves and opening up at a steady pace.


Ted Leung has a thought provoking post titled "Adobe wants to be the Microsoft of the web". From what I've been able to gather, Ted is a big open source advocate, so obviously he has some strong feelings about a platform that seems to be growing. For me, it's absolutely fantastic to see someone like him talking about Rich Internet Applications. They're the future - not every app needs to be turned into an RIA, but the next generation of web applications (a space that is very popular) is going to be based on RIAs. Update: Andrew Shebanow (of Adobe) has some good thoughts.

So being the forward thinking guy he is, Ted wants to make sure this next generation of web app has the same open mindset that the old one did. But as a Flash developer, I don't think open sourcing the Flash player is the way to go. I like knowing that everyone's version of Flash player is exactly the same. I don't want to have to start hacking applications to make them work in the 2-3 most popular versions of the Flash Player. For me, that's the single biggest reason why open sourcing the Flash Player would be a bad thing.

But that's not to say Adobe shouldn't continue to try and be more open. They're doing some of that with the creation of the Tamarin project, joining the Eclipse foundation, and working closely with the ISO committee on standards. There is also a thriving open source Flash community based at osflash.org. Anne's post on why Flash should be more open source is a good read. It's also frustrating because she makes a solid point using the economics of markets (how can I argue with that?!). I think opening up parts of the Flash Player, like they did with Tamarin, fosters some of the growth and innovation that Anne wants. I think there are ways to encourage that without opening the entire player.

This is a healthy debate to have, because as Flash continues to grow, a more diverse set of developers is going to be using the platform. Someday, I hope we have a model that allows for an open source Flash, and to be totally honest, I think Adobe is slowly, steadily marching in that direction. But at this point, I think they can be open without open sourcing the code for the player. While it won't please everyone, the piecemeal approach keeps current developers happy and helps keep the dialog with people like Ted open. What I hope to see, is the open source community become more specific in their requests for Flash. What can Adobe do to be more open without going entirely open source? Or is there no middle ground?

Topic: Software Development

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  • Publish a Protocol Spec for AMF

    I agree that open sourcing the Flash player is not a good idea but I wish Adobe would hurry up and publish the AMF protocol specification. Didn't they say they were going to do that one day?
  • RE: Why I don't think open source Flash is necessary

    > I like knowing that everyone's version of Flash player is exactly the same.

    You will hear the same argument from half assed web developers that think ie6 is all that matters.

    There is already 3 versions (actually more when you count wii and mobile's) that you should be hacking your flash to make work on.

    1) flash <9, still around in many corporate environments

    2) flash 9 mac/win provides a reasonable consistent platform

    3) flash on linux.

    there isnt much any one can do about the first category, its just a fact of IT life (and what flash 9 will one day become). the 2nd version is what flash developers like to think everyone has. and the 3rd version is the reason im writing this comment. Adobe's flash player on linux is broken, fscking crash prone, and slow as a wet week. read the comments on the adobe flash for linux blog (before they get removed) to see the growing frustration with several year old bugs such as lack of wmode support, no 64bit or ppc version and no hardware acceleration (forget your full screen video on linux, it sux).

    thankfully we have open source versions under heavy development that are moving much faster then adobe to fill these gapping holes (swfdec and gnash). they are not ready for the prime time yet but soon they will catch up and hopefully exceed adobe giving us a truly open option that will run anywhere, not just where adobe sees a buck.