Does any open source media player stand a chance?

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.

Gnash logo
Gnash 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.