Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Internet Multimedia and Mozilla Flash Agreement

There has been a lot of madness going on recently in the open source community. Oracle grabbing up Red Hat's distribution and re-branding it as unbreakable. Which in my opinion is kind of funny, anyone who's ever tried to administer any computer system at all knows that the word "unbreakable" is kind of like a Greek woman fawning all over their new born baby in front of a shrine to Zeus.

In the midst of all this excitement there was a small insignificant announcement that Adobe was going to be handing over the code for the ActionScript virtual machine to the Mozilla foundation. This will have the effect of improving the efficiency of Flash content in Firefox by building some of the interpretation into the browser. This will certainly help with cross platform compatibility. Considering the headache they've been going through trying to implement Flash in linux using only a minimal set of libraries to avoid dependency issues it comes as no surprise to me that they made this move.

Personally I think this move in the long run has the potential to be more exciting than either of the "Take down the Red Hat" announcements. If this code is released under a full open source license, which it is my understanding that it will be, then there is the possibility of someone really attacking the project of writing an open source program that does what Flash does. Now I don't mean writing a flash replacement. That is such an enormous monolithic project I don't see how anyone could catch up to it. However, as with Photoshop there is only a small percentage of the people who use Flash who make use of all of it's capabilities. If somehow over the next several years someone was able to create a project that implemented vector graphics interactivity and animation in the Flash style and only got to the point of the Flash 4 feature set then that would be really exciting. I don't think it would cut into Adobe's market all that much either. The people who are willing to pay Adobe's astronomical pricetag for Flash aren't going to be interested in a smaller open source alternative. For people interested in just doing web interactivity work in the .swf format with Actionscript controls though having an affordable alternative would be a major step forward. Macromedia made Flash available at reasonable educational prices. I knew students who invested 100 bucks and got the entire MX 2004 suite from my college. The academic price for flash itself is now a couple hundred bucks. I wish I had the programming know how to start a project like this, because it is time. There is a huge market of people who are ready to make the web far more interactive than most of it is now, but aren't that crusty top layer that Adobe sells to. It's time to make a product for the rest of us.

No comments: