Open-Source Apache Flex Finally Comes to Linux

NEWS ANALYSIS: The Flex Framework for rich Internet application development continues its evolution beyond Adobe's confines as adoption and interest grows.

The open-source Apache Software Foundation (ASF) is out this week with the Flex 4.10.0 update, which I consider to be a major new release of the Flex project. Flex is what was once referred to as an RIA (rich Internet application) Framework, and it enables developers to build modern expressive Websites, leveraging Adobe's Flash technology. The Flex 4.10.0 update is notable from my perspective in that it brings Linux support into the fold.

I've been aware of Flex since 2007, when Adobe first decided to opoen source the framework. Adobe had been building and promoting Flex on its own as a proprietary technology since 2004. Back then the market for RIA Frameworks was fierce, as every developer was trying to build an Asynchronous JavaScript and XML (AJAX)-style Website that offered a more fluid and interactive experience for users.

In 2012, Adobe donated the Flex framework to Apache, and earlier this year it officially became a Top-Level Project (meaning it's fully part of the ASF and has proper project management and release policies in place).

The fact that Flex had not previously provided Linux support is somewhat surprising. I tend to think of open source (for better or for worse) as being Linux first. When I think of open-source Web technologies (Apache, nginx, Tomcat, etc.), they are all running on Linux too. Whether or not this new Linux support for Flex will improve Flex usage and adoption remains to be seen. In a world where core HTML5 technologies seemingly dominate, Flex's place is somewhat uncertain. Yes, I know there are cross-compiler efforts that will enable Flex to work well with HTML5, but I suspect many developers still think of Flex as being Flash first.

Flex's developers, however, are very optimistic, with a steady increase in interest since Flex came to Apache at the end of 2012.

"We are seeing interest in the Flex development framework increase rapidly," OmPrakash Muppirala, committer and member of the Apache Flex Project Management Committee (PMC), said in a statement. "There have been more than a half a million page views in the past 6 months, more than 9000 downloads of the Flex SDK in the past 3 months, and around 130,000 unique visitors to the website."

Aside from the Linux support, the other notable addition that I found in the Flex 4.10.0 update is improved support for older Flash Player versions. The idea behind that support is to not force all Flex users to update to the latest version of Flash. While this is an idea that makes sense, in that it lowers a barrier to adoption, I think it's also a bit risky. Many of the recent Flash Player updates have been security-focused, so it's likely a better idea than not for developers and users to keep the latest and most updated version in their workspaces.

The new Flex 4.10.0 release is now freely available for download from its Apache project site:

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner is an Internet consultant, strategist, and contributor to several leading IT business web sites.