Could Adobe's contribution to Mozilla force MS to take Internet Explorer open source?

News.com's Martin Lamonica has the details on "the largest code contribution yet to the open source Mozilla Foundation:" On Tuesday, Adobe is expected to announce the donation in conjunction with the Web 2.
Written by David Berlind, Inactive

News.com's Martin Lamonica has the details on "the largest code contribution yet to the open source Mozilla Foundation:"

On Tuesday, Adobe is expected to announce the donation in conjunction with the Web 2.0 Conference in San Francisco. The code will form the basis for a new open-source project called Tamarin, which will be governed and manned by developers from Adobe and Mozilla.

Adobe will provide the same software, called the ActionScript Virtual Machine, which it uses to run script code in the Adobe Flash Player 9.

This virtual machine is expected to be built into future versions of the Firefox browser by the first half of 2008, said Frank Hecker, the executive director of the Mozilla Foundation.

The scripting language for Adobe's Flash Player virtual machine runs programs written in ActionScript, which is based on an Ecma International standard called ECMAScript Edition 4. Widely used JavaScript and Microsoft JScript also comply with that standard, said Kevin Lynch, chief software architect at Adobe.

The latest version of Adobe's script "engine," released in June this year with Flash Player 9, uses a just-in-time compiler to run programs ten times faster than previous versions, he said.

Lynch said the deal with Mozilla is the biggest Adobe has done with open source. The move furthers the company's plan to allow developers to mix and match programming technologies, including AJAX-style Web development and Flash for media and animation, he said.

So, I have a couple of quick observations on this.

First, the more I talk to people about Flash becoming the "operating system" of choice for highly interactive-based Web apps, the more I hear "uh huh." AJAX and Flash are like peanut butter and jelly with one providing base-level interactivity and the other bringing that interactivity to life. In the absence of any competition from any of the big players, this code contribution will further cement Flash's role in the future of interactive Web-based applications.  I remember a while ago that Microsoft was talking about HTAs or HTML-based applications: apps that didn't necessarily run in a browser-based Window but that were fully driven by Web technologies. So, how about FBAs (Flash-based applications) instead of HTAs (to all you college kids out there, some of the good jobs in interactive media will definitely go to AJAX/Flash experts).

Second, there's a larger trend here that will marginalize some commercial software providers. In the biggest of the big pictures, IT vendors are issuing patent convenants that allow open source developers free access to their intellectual property. Invariably, those convenants do not apply to commercial software providers. It creates an interesting dynamic where open source software has access to intellectual property where closed source software does not. Long term, this probably will not bode well for closed source software. Conspiracy theorists will automatically see the connection. Where such covenants are being made available to open source, there's usually some commercial offering that dominates the marketplace -- one whose grip needs to be loosened some.  

In a variation of my second observation, open source projects also benefit from non-covenant contributions like the one Adobe is making too in a way that marginalizes commercial entries. One of the best examples of this that I know of is XenSource's open source-based virtualization software. In contrast to the way virtualization solution provider VMware operates (VMware is a subsidiary of EMC), XenSource's open source nature means that companies like Intel and AMD can freely contribute to the open source project in ways that make XenSource work better on their hardware. For XenSource, it's like have the world's best engineers as the project team without having to pay them a dime. Meanwhile, VMware, as a closed-source solution, doesn't get the same benefits. Do the math. I'm not saying that VMware is going to go under. I love VMware Workstation (XenSource doesn't focus on workstations yet). But, the more commercial vendors continue to make contributions (either in code or convenants) to open source projects only, the less sustainable certain commercial "projects" seem to be.

Just assuming Mozilla gets more contributions (both in code and intellectual property) from other Adobe-sized companies -- contributions that aren't available to Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) because of its closed-source nature -- how can IE possibly compete? Long term, where contributions are marginalizing commercial entries, the vendors behind those commercial entries may have no choice but to take them open source or taken them off the market.

Editorial standards