Mozilla warns of Flash and Silverlight 'agenda'

Mozilla warns of Flash and Silverlight 'agenda'

Summary: The founder of Mozilla Europe claims Adobe and Microsoft's rich-media tech threatens the open nature of the web but concedes they are currently necessary for multimedia content.

Companies building websites should beware of proprietary rich-media technologies like Adobe's Flash and Microsoft's Silverlight, the founder of Mozilla Europe has warned.

Speaking at the Internet World conference in London on Tuesday, Tristan Nitot claimed such applications threaten the open nature of the internet because the companies behind them could "have an agenda". While he conceded that Flash was currently necessary for consistently displaying content such as video, he suggested that the upcoming revision of the HTML specification would make it unnecessary to use proprietary technology.

Flash is already used to display multimedia content on many websites. According to Nitot, the Adobe Flash Player is on 98 percent of all PCs in the world. Silverlight is a similar technology, launched by Microsoft last year.

Nitot was speaking on the subject of "the dangers of the proprietary web". He described the nature of the web at the moment as open, but suggested that "proprietary solutions running on top of the web are trying to take over". Referring specifically to Flash and Silverlight, he said that "people depend on the vendor to provide them with the runtime [browser plug-in that runs the code]."

"So far there has not been a problem," Nitot said. "Both Adobe and Microsoft have been willing to give [Flash and Silverlight away] for free. But maybe they have an agenda. They're not here for the glory; they're here for the money." Currently both Microsoft and Adobe make money from their respective web multimedia software by selling developer kits, but there are now a number of open-source projects for developing Flash and less mature, but still active, efforts to create open-source Silverlight development software.

Nitot gave two historical examples of Microsoft and Adobe withdrawing or withholding products from certain platforms: Microsoft's discontinuation of Internet Explorer for Unix and Mac, and Adobe's long-standing refusal to "provide a recent version of Flash for Linux users". He suggested that web developers should be asking those companies whether they are "sure that Silverlight and Flash will always be available on all platforms [and] run decently on all platforms."

"You're producing content for your users and there's someone in the middle deciding whether users should see your content," Nitot said. "If Adobe or Microsoft decides to compete with you and you're using their technology, you cannot compete."

"If you consider proprietary technologies, think hard; are you really trading convenience in the short term with independence in the long term?" Nitot asked. He conceded that "if you want to have a commercially viable website, in most cases you need Flash," but continued: "In HTML 5 there will be video and audio; you won't need Flash for video and audio". HTML 5 is currently a work in progress. Although the specification can be used in some cases now, it is not likely to reach completion until 2010 at the very earliest.

Talking to after his speech, Nitot said he had "nothing against Adobe". "Flash… is a success, although I don't think it is [compatible with] the open web," he said. He added that Adobe should open source Flash and claimed that there was a possibility of this happening if Silverlight becomes a successful rival to it.

Nitot also claimed that Mozilla was "leading [open] web standards adoption" by gaining significant market share for its Firefox browser, thereby forcing competitors such as Microsoft to use web standards in their browsers. approached Microsoft and Adobe for comment on Nitot's speech but neither had responded at the time of writing.

Topics: Enterprise Software, Browser, Microsoft, Software Development

David Meyer

About David Meyer

David Meyer is a freelance technology journalist. He fell into journalism when he realised his musical career wouldn't pay the bills. David's main focus is on communications, as well as internet technologies, regulation and mobile devices.

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  • The "may"...?

    Please, just close your mouth and only open it again when you have actual proof of anything.

    [i]They "may" have an agenda...[/i]

    Nothing other than just more endless anti-MS crying. but Give me a break...
    • When must-have programs become Trojans

      "Nothing other than just more endless anti-MS crying. but Give me a break..."

      Did Microsoft buy Adobe when I wasn't looking? This isn't anti-MS, it is anti-proprietary.

      Personally, I hate Adobe Flash. I do not like webpages that can decide to download and play annoying or distracting video on my browser without my express permission. If you disable Flash in IE, it complains incessantly and keeps trying to re-download and enable it. This was one of the main reasons I switched to Firefox and NoScript.

      There are whole sites that depend on Flash to deliver their content. Needless to say, I AVOID these sites. They don't have anything of value that I want.

      The real key here is that Flash and Silverlight both require proprietary executables to be downloaded to your computer. Both of these "phone home" to their respective corporate sites, and you have little or no control about how they do it, how often, or what information they send. You also have no control over any security holes they may open in your computer or your network. That is just unacceptable to me. I may have to put up with it just to use the dominant desktop software (WindowsXP), but I'm not willing to compromise just to get an ancillary capability that is used to annoy me more often than it is used to assist me ...
      terry flores
      • Try Flash and Pics Control for IE.

        Other software will also prevent Flash from working, but this one prevents a number of other annoyances. Because it's listed under Tools, it can also be turned off easily when you do want to see something in Flash video.

        Avoiding Flash needn't be a reason to use FireFox.
        Anton Philidor
        • RE: Try Flash and Pics Control for IE

          Quote: [i]Avoiding Flash needn't be a reason to use FireFox.[/i]

          [b]But avoiding IE certainly IS!!![/b]
        • Hey Anton

          Do you consider also Siverlight as an annoyance that must be removed?

        • Once again the myth of going to Firefox

          I know you want to be different, edgy and think MS is the Anti-Christ, but millions of people use IE (you know the free one with windows) everyday and find it not only well designed but working well on the web.

          I prefer it to all the other contenders, it's UI is minimalist and it performs like it should be - a picture frame.

          But keep using those open source cobbled together browsers, it keeps the Eunuchs and fanbois happy and hopefully more involved with their computers, so they don't post here.
          • Monopoly is against the law, and is despised

            It is those who continuously try to define the Monopolist Microsoft as the standard of all computer technology who are the fanboys.

            Shame on people who believe that we should all have to pay a "Microsoft Tax" in order to surf the Internet.

            Monopolist companies like Microsoft destroy open standards, destroy innovation, and destroy the very advancement of Computerized Technology. The time has come for this to stop, and I'm not the only one saying it.

            It is Microsoft that will bow to the Open Standards, not the other way around.

            Once the Microsoft Blinders are removed, the sight from the mountaintop is OPEN, BRIGHT, and CLEAR for us all to move forward with technology as an enabler for humankind.

            Educate yourself, use Linux today:

            Here's to our future, a future of OPEN computing technology.

            Shannon VanWagner
          • It's clear that you don't study the law

            Being a monopoly is -not- illegal.

            It is also obvious that you don't know what standard means.

            3 : something established by authority, custom, or general consent as a model or example : criterion <quite slow by today's standards>

            Microsoft is ACTUALLY setting the standards and the web standards project is actually trying to IMPROVE those standards. Get it? Got it? Good. :)
            Michael Alan Goff
      • My, you are bitter and twisted!

        Flash isn't just used to render video, and I don't know how you judge the content of a site as being unworthy of your 'high standards' when you can't even see the content? You appear to be quite security conscious and yet you've never heard of firewalls. I don't know about Silverlight but I've never ever had the Flash plugin 'phone home' as you put it, and if it tried it would get blocked by my firewalls. Yes that's right! I have more than one. I think you need to get out more!
        • Pardon me...

          But isn't using more than 1 firewall NOT recommended as they can interfere with each other? You know, like firewall A allows a legit program to access the Internet but then your 2nd firewall blocks it? And besides, it'd be a big hassle (and annoying) periodically maintaining the program access list of 2 firewalls (unless you enjoy keeping those program access lists synchronized)...
      • Me too - sort of

        I am running 64 bit Linux with a 64 bit port of Firefox. A few months ago a "security" update for FLASH disabled that plugin. I have since been unable to view Flash programming on the web. On balance this is OK. While I do miss a small amount of content I wanted to see, I also miss a [b]huge[/b] amount of advertising I did not want to see anyway.
      • RE: Mozilla warns of Flash and Silverlight 'agenda'

        Hey, tonymcs@...
        No need to call names. People are not castrated or homosexual because they don't use Microsoft products. Firefox and Chrome are not cobbled together. They follow standards setup by the WW3 which is more than Microsoft does in their design of IE. We who don't rely on Windows on a daily basis have gotten used to more security, and that's one reason why we object to Flash and Silverlight.
    • Proof exists

      Some credit card management companies use a "Flash Player" response to any connection. This effectively makes the site useless to those without their approved version of "Flash".

      You want a "break". I suggest that you simply open your mind to what is actually happening, and stop ignoring the evidence.
      Update victim
  • motivation

    What's the motivation for Adobe to provide current versions of Flash for every single possible OS/version?

    If they cover 98% of the market with Windows and OSX, nothing forces them to burn the money to try and get the last 2% of users.

    I agree that web designers should be cautious when designing a site - using Silverlight exclusively will limit users, and using Flash, while being installed on most computers, can still be slow to load and cumbersome when programmed incorrectly.

    Adobe shouldn't "open source Flash". It's their software to do with as they please. I'm getting really tired of these open-source guys demanding everything be opened up.

    The web isn't free or open, in any sense, no matter how much they want it to be. You pay to get on it, pay to get hosted, pay for design, pay for space, pay for bandwidth, etc. If you have to install Flash or Silverlight to view a website, that's your choice, you 'pay' by installing the software. You can choose not to.

    If you design sites, you're using dreamweaver or other design products, probably with various Macromedia products or their equivalents, plus databases, middleware, etc. All cost money, though some have 'open' alternatives, most of which are less robust.

    The internet is a delivery medium, not an inherent human right.

    And unless HTML5 covers interactive graphical web sites, not just video and audio, there will be a continued demand for Flash and Silverlight.
    • According to Mr. Nitot, the motivation should be...

      ... glory. Apparently glory is more noble a motivation than money.

      Funny that he doesn't mention his own agenda, the agenda of open source: the destruction of proprietary software.
      Guy Smiley
      • Destroy prorietary software

        That seems a noble cause.
    • Hardware costs are different to software

      Of course web hosting cannot be offered for free because it costs money for the place to hold the servers, the electricity etc. If you really want you could host your own website in which case you would only need to pay your isp for access to the internet.

      If the web was proprietary in the same way flash is then it is logical that the cost would probably be higher because it is a monopoly.

      Software is quiet different because the only real cost is writing the code. Once this is done it costs virtually nothing to distribute it since it can be downloaded from the internet.

      Also the internet is mainly open. I have a couple of small websites which I wrote using completely free and open source software. I used a text editor which is very common for people who have the skills to develop websites because it is as fast as a wysiwyg editor and you have more control. And of course any web scripting is hand coded anyway.

      I can code a website by hand which I can view in just about any browser and it will work because of the open standards of HTML. This is good for me as a developer and good for those people who want a choice of browser like me. I was using firefox well before IE7 so if the web had been closed then I would not have had as good an experience due to no tabs etc.

      Also you seem to be wrong about the middleware part as well. The majority of websites use apache server on linux and a huge number use open source MySQL and open source php which is also the most popular scripting language. So two open source products are the most commonly used and the third is also highly popular and used on millions of servers so I would assume it is robust.
      • software costs a lot, though

        Software costs a lot, usually a lot more than any hosting hardware would, due to developer pay, ongoing maintenance and bug fixing, etc. Open source doesn't guarantee a developer community actively fixing it in a timely fashion.

        As for middleware, most people aren't setting up their own servers, they use web hosts, and pay for it, not just for the hardware, but for the hosts to set it up. That the software itself is free saves money, indeed.

        You can code a website in text, sure, but that's not common, some developers can write HTML but don't because a proprietary Code/Design editor like Dreamweaver is so much easier and quicker. I can code in C# without intellisense, but why would I?

        All I'm saying is that if this guy wants open software, write it and distribute it, don't demand that private businesses do the same. Get the open source developing community involved.

        I'm glad that there are enough free tools for anyone to create their own websites, I use them too, I just don't think it's a necessary requirement that all software used online should be open source, and it bugs me that these guys are expecting it.
        • Well, You're correct about no guarantee on

          quick fixes for software. BUT it does seem to be much quicker on OSS than on Proprietary software, which also has no guarantee of rapid fixes and seems to take a lot longer in providing them.
          Update victim
      • Not quite right

        [i]If you really want you could host your own website in which case you would only need to pay your isp for access to the internet.[/i]

        [b]And, find one that doesn't forbid that in their TOS. Which still leaves you paying for bandwidth.[/b]

        [i]Software is quiet different because the only real cost is writing the code. Once this is done it costs virtually nothing to distribute it since it can be downloaded from the internet.[/i]

        [b]Getting back to that bandwidth thing... A reasonably popular bit of software is going to result in the need to pay for gigabits of bandwidth usage. [/b]

        [i]Also you seem to be wrong about the middleware part as well.[/i]

        [b]Actually, you're wrong. The "middleware" in question was Silverlight and Flash. [/b]
        Dr. John