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You know, it's strange that Adobe hasn't considered, at this point in time, open-sourcing the Flash player. Please, hear me out, because I don't just mean this as an HH (Hopeful Hacker), but also as a well-thought-out IBD (Intelligent Business Decision):

Flash has obviously been very beneficial to them in the long run. It has given them the only remaining well-controlled proprietary piece of the web. This helps them sell their IDE, and more importantly, gets their brand out there.

Now, I'd argue that these goals have now been accomplished. Adobe is well-entrenched in web history, and everyone knows what Flash is. However, the relevance of Flash is clearly declining, due to HTML5, and stigma and disgruntlement is increasing. This means they will get less and less sales of their IDE and their name will fizzle out.

Imagine for a second that they open sourced the Flash player. Just the player. Suddenly it would no longer carry such a stigma with Linux, it would be easy to include in distros, developers would contribute fixes and make it more efficient on hard-to-support systems. It would literally stretch out its life-time as a product, and keep Adobe's name on the web.

I argue that Flash has played out its role for Adobe, and if they open source it now it could only benefit them. I did not think this was true in the past, and I think it will not be true in 5 to 10 years when HTML5 has surpassed Flash adoption in the most important venues. However, right now I think it would benefit them immensely.

There also seems to be a sentiment from some of the comments here that they are losing interest in maintaining Flash, so opening it to the community would seem to make some sense. If the "standard" ends up evolving in any way, they'd always have a head-start in their IDE support, since it will easily remain ahead of the curve.




There are over 70 patents and licensed libraries in Flash. It would basically be impossible to get those companies to agree to open source and give away all their IP. For a while, Adobe was paying over a dollar per Android Flash install because some of their licenses only applied to desktop.

So one might say they should open source the core of Flash, the JIT compiler and virtual machine, and not the parts that are licensed. And you're right, that would be the correct move! They did that in 2006: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tamarin_%28software%29

They also open sourced the Flex SDK: http://opensource.adobe.com/wiki/display/flexsdk/Flex+SDK

What Adobe needs is a completely new product that is available to consumers for free, has it's source code public and free from patents. This way, Adobe tools can still be sold and used to develop, while the player is ubiquitous and as widely spread as possible. And that's what they're trying to do with HTML5: http://www.adobe.com/solutions/html5.html

Adobe's communication to developers is bad. No one knows about any this. Technology isn't their problem, marketing is.

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Exactly! Does anyone remember this: http://www.adobe.com/devnet/html5/articles/css-shaders.html

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If you visit the http://crash-stats.mozilla.org site, you may have noticed the obfuscated Flash symbols starting with F followed by some random number.

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...okay? What is your point?

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Why do you think the symbols had to be obfuscated?

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Why do you think I would be asking what your point is?

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Exactly, http://osmf.org anyone?

EDIT: Make link a link :-)

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I've been wondering why they haven't done this for a very, very long time. The player itself has not been a source of revenue for Adobe for quite some time (they used to license Flash Lite to handset manufacturers and made money off of that), instead they make all their money by selling tools to make content for that runtime. I'm hoping someone from Adobe is reading this, because I've never really heard a rational business reason for why the Player is not open source.

So here are my questions for Adobe:

Is there still income from Flash Player licensing? If not, how does keeping the Player closed source help your business interests?

Is it the client side DRM you have in place in the Player that's stopping you from making it open source?

Do you not have the resources to communicate with the community that would develop around an open sourced player (knowing that you would have spend some time to justify many things that exist in the codebase to maintain backwards compatibility)?

Are you concerned that a rival would clone some of the technology you developed and implement it in their proprietary player (e.g. MS, but they already gave up on Silverlight)?

Would the sudden influx of new security patches as vulnerabilities are discovered and fixed potentially compromise the performance of the Player?

Are you worried that individuals with malicious intent will find new vulnerabilities and exploit them?

What are your other concerns that are preventing you from open sourcing the Flash Player?

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>The player itself has not been a source of revenue for Adobe for quite some time

Google pays lots of money for Adobe to auto opt-in Flash installs with Chrome.

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I was not aware of that. Do you have any details on that arrangement? I don't see any record of that in any of their earning reports for the last two years.

My understanding of that arrangement is that it is a mutually beneficial relationship that guarantees that Chrome users have the latest version of Flash (and Chrome is thus more secure) and the Flash Player update adoption happens faster. It makes very little sense to me that Google would pay Adobe for that since Adobe benefits just as much as Google.

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Last I checked, Adobe had a deal with Google where when the user installs Flash for Firefox or Opera on Windows, Adobe also installs Chrome by default, in addition to Flash itself, unless the user opts out.

Now how much money this brings in, who knows.

Note that this is NOT the same as Flash being bundled with Chrome. This is Chrome being bundled with Flash.

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That's a rather naive way of looking at it. The name - Flash Player - is deceptive. Player is what users see and what it appears to be doing, but in reality it is much more than that. It is a content delivery system, and the Player is an essential part of it that is expected to play by the rules - DRM, collaborative p2p delivery, licensing, etc. 10% (maybe) of the player is about playback, the rest is what users don't really see, but what is of a huge value to Adobe. Guess what will be stripped off the second the player open sourced? Why would Adobe want that.

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For everyone I know Flash amounts to YouTube, Ustream, some other video sites, and some web games.

Streaming video will work just fine with HTML5 or just an old fashioned browser video plugin. A lot of the Flash web games will be missed, but my sense is that the vast majority of those people are using Windows and Mac.

The day is coming when very few new projects will be started in Flash and it will go the way of Silverlight.

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To responders: yes, I agree that DRM and patents are a big problem for this. I don't have an answer to that..

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I agree they would probably benefit from open sourcing it. However I don't think they can. In order to "fully open source" it, they would have to include an open source H264/mp4 decoder. Which would probably not be allowed by everyone who owns H264. Alas.

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You are confusing licensing of code and patents. You can have an implementation that is Open Source. The problem is licensing the patents and eventually having that license trickle down to "sublicensee". Usually this does not work.

So technically the code is Open Source but each distributor must get a patent license... that is restricted to redistributing binary form only.

(I deliberately did avoid the use of the word Free Software, as this actually might not be true if the code is licensed under the Free Software license GPL).

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You are right that you might be able to claim "open source" while still requiring a patent licence under the letter of the 'open source'. However that would definitly go against the spirit of "open source" and it would not be viewed by anyone as actually open source at all.

"Free Software" vs "Open Source" would not be relevant here, since both FS and OS would view this "you-still-need-a-patent-licence" clause as incompatible with FS & OS.

There are a few bits in the new GPLv3 that say "if you release under GPLv3 then you have to give everyone a patent licence". However I don't know how that works if you don't have a full patent licenceā€¦

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> In order to "fully open source" it, they would have to include an open source H264/mp4 decoder. Which would probably not be allowed by everyone who owns H264. Alas.

There are existing open source implementations of H264. Even the best encoder (x264) is open source. But I guess there are license issues with third party code/libraries used in Flash.

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Yes there are H264 software that is released under an open source copyright licence. However the implementation might still be breech patents and might still be illegal to use.

It's a shame that a complete clean room open source implementation (e.g. x264) might still be illegal to use in some territories.

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That's just the question of having a license. Not whether the implementation is open source.

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It could be hard coded into the browsers like javascript.

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Like Shumway? https://github.com/mozilla/shumway

This is an effort to render SFW inside the browser.

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Indeed, this is long overdue and I've been making this argument for years. Adobe has already lost a lot by keeping Flash Player closed and they only stand to lose more and more. This decision, for instance, will only promote HTML 5 adoption in lieu of Flash farther and farther. Adobe can still matter if they open-source Flash Player right now, but as you noted, the sweet spot is closing rapidly.

The fact of the matter is that if Flash had opened itself up earlier, there wouldn't even be an HTML 5 Canvas/WebGL as we know it, people just would have used and extended Flash and Adobe would still be making bank on their commercial IDE for the environment. Now Adobe's dominance is threatened and Flash is universally despised.

Adobe is obviously terrible at maintaining the runtime so I think the only logical explanation for their lack of OSS Flash Player is that they have some very prehistoric business guys somewhere along the way that don't understand open-source at all and choke this off in terror every time it gets mentioned.

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> they are losing interest in maintaining Flash, so opening it to the community would seem to make some sense

Sounds like what Oracle did with OpenOffice.org. Dumping it on the Apache Foundation and all that.

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