Open-Sourcing Flash

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2008-03-03 Print this article Print

That's Tamarin you're referring to?

Yes, that's Tamarin. So the Flash Player team is actually working in that open-source tree on upcoming versions of that virtual machine that we'll put in Flash Player and also bring it to mobile devices and you can see the work going on there in the open-source project. And others can contribute to it. We're starting to see that happen now, which we're excited about. So that's a first step for us. It's a big step since it's the core execution engine inside Flash.

And we've also open-sourced the framework, Flex. Flex is free and now open source. And there's a public bug database and you can look at all the source and you can contribute changes back. So we're really open-sourcing significant parts of the technology already.

We want to make sure we get good experience managing the projects and taking changes back, and kind of being a good steward of the projects. So we're learning about that right now. It's a transition for us to adopt the open-source methodology, basically.

So you said Tamarin was a first step. Does that mean you're going to do a second, third, fourth step and so on until Flash is fully open source?

I think you'll see increasingly more open technologies from Adobe. Openness is part of our soul, even back to the early days of the PostScript standard and PDF. We publish the SWIFT format we have since 1998 and so that's part of who we are, and source code now is the next transition that's part of that. But we want to do it in a way that's thoughtful and that we manage it well and that we still ship high quality software and we're able to innovate fast. We can do that with open source, we just want to make sure we do it well.

I've watched this ongoing competition between Adobe and Microsoft. What do you think they need to do if they want to one-up AIR?

(Laughter) Well, it's interesting that they've not yet done something that is equivalent to AIR-that is a cross-operating system runtime for applications. The closest they've done is Silverlight in the browser versus Flash Player. And, in my view, this is the next generation of how people are going to be building applications-cross-operating system.

It's the next layer of abstraction on top of what is now the operating system. If you look back on what is now the history of computing, we've been building up these layers over time from initially toggling software into a machine, to assembly language, high-level languages, APIs, frameworks, user interface guidelines, OS APIs. That keeps layering on over the decades. I think we're at that next stage now where this new layer is emerging of the Web really, and how the Web is changing software.

So I haven't yet seen something from Microsoft that does that, and to some degree, they're not really motivated to do that because Windows is a big part of their business currently.

Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.

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