Robots w/Lasers

April 26, 2007

Open Source Flash FUD

Every time someone mentions open sourcing the flash player, someone always jumps up to defend Adobe (formerly Macromedia…I’ll always think of Flash as a MM product). There are many good reasons why they may not want to opensource the runtime, but the fear of having multiple incompatible runtimes is not one of them.

The ‘OMG incompatible versions’ thing is just a bunch of FUD. If Adobe kept control of the player, there would not be any issue with this. Sure, you might have 1 or 2% of the users branching off to make their own versions, but they already do this anyway! (see gnash, also that other opensource flash player). If the official player were open sourced, then the branches would be much more compatible. Gnash lacks in a lot of areas, and only supports up to F7, imagine if they could reuse code from the official player. So you would actually gain more compatibility by opensourcing, not less!

Notes on Blair’s post:

  1. Microsoft’s JVM was not made by branching an open-source copy of Sun’s JVM. It was made by microsoft, and they PURPOSEFULLY made it incompatible, to try and encorage platform lock-in. After the whole suit from Sun, a few years later they made their own language / platform (C# / .NET), and achieved the same goals. (Platform lockin. No, Mono is not a good substitute for 90% of apps)
  2. Microsoft’s JVM did not kill Java in the browser, Java sucking is what killed Java in the browser.
  3. Sun’s JVM just went GPL recently, and there hasn’t been an explosion of dozens of incompatible JVMs. In fact, off the top of my head, I cannot think of a single JVM besides the official one, because that’s what I always use, on windows, mac, and linux. Sure there are different versions, but the same applies to flash, and to any non-dead technology.

(Personally I do not like the GPL, it has some real problems, but that’s a topic for another day)

For the case of the flash player, imagine that we still had ExpressInstall, and that it always pointed at the official Adobe upgrade site. The only people who might even possibly install an incompatible version, are the fringe users, and they would be fully aware of what they are doing. The average user who just sees ‘New version of flash, click OK’ would always have the official version.

I wish people would stop resorting to this argument against flash being open source. Why not just use the real ones?

  1. Adobe makes lots of money selling flash player to device manufacturers.
  2. Adobe uses expensive proprietary audio and video codes which they cannot open source.
  3. Probably a few others as well, but the above two are the main ones in my mind.
Filed under: Flash — davr @ 7:32 am


  1. Youre right. This must happen, and soon.

    Comment by Kovsky — May 2, 2007 @ 2:56 pm

  2. Not only did Sun’s recent GPL of Java not create forks, it’s pretty much killed gcj and classpath as the people behind it have gotten on board.

    Comment by jldugger — May 8, 2007 @ 12:01 am

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