8 Jun 2005 tnt   » (Master)

OSFlash, Open Source Flash, and Macromedia

Things keep on going good for OSFlash. Alot of good people have joined the community! The mailing list is quite active, the wiki is becoming a very valuable resource, and people from Macromedia are even making an appearance on the mailing list.

To quote Macromedia's Mike Chambers:

I know a lot of people [from OSFlash] see this as an us vs Macromedia, but we are really excited about everything that has been happening over the past couple of months.

It also seems like Macromedia will be putting some of their own projects up on OSFlash and releasing them under an open source license. (Hopefully it is GNU GPL compatible.)

Also, I registered the dot-com version of the domain, and pointed it to the dot-org website. So:

http://osflash.com/
http://www.osflash.com/

Now both go to:

http://osflash.org/

I did this to prevent anything offensive from appearing on the dot-com. And because I know alot of people don't know there are any other domains other than the dot-com domains. (So having these too will help people to get to our website.)


Free and Open Source Flash Player

Recently people have been talking about Free and Open Source Flash Players. Slashdot was running the article The Return of GPLFlash. And the FSF has made a call to arms regarding Free Flash (and Free Java). (Remeber, we're talking about "Free as in Freedom" here.) I think Macromedia is somewhat concerned over this. And I can tell you why... here's a another quote from Macromedia's Mike Chambers:

just fyi, we don't just make our money by selling authoring tools. We make quite a bit of money by licensing the player source code for devices.

I dont have the exact numbers handy, but if you check our financial statements you can find a breakdown.

Furthermore, there is not much growth potential in selling tools, but there is huge future potential in licensing the player for devices (to manufactures, not end users), especially as mobile devices explode in the coming years.

So, you can see that a Free and Open Source Flash Player could really cut into their revenue stream. If (for a Mobile Phone or Device manufacturer) the cost of using an Open Source Flash Player is less than the cost of licensing Macromedia's Flash Player, then you'll see Mobile Phone and Device manufacturers switching over to Open Source Flash Players (and Macromedia loosing an amount of this revenue stream).

That's unfortunate. But I think Macromedia is at risk of loosing this revenue stream, even without an Open Soure Flash Player, much sooner than they expected. (I.e., even before the boom with mobile devices slows down.) Consider this. What are Macromedia's risks in the business of licensing Flash Players to Mobile Phone and Device manufacturers? To understand this I think you need to figure out why Mobile Phone and Device manufacturers want a Flash Player on their phones and devices in the first place?

  1. Is it so uses can view Flash web sites, applications, etc off of the Web on their phone or mobile device?
  2. Is it so Mobile Phone and Device manufacturers can create their own in-house (Mobile Phone or Device) application systems using Flash, for their users?
  3. Is it so consultants and in-house development teams can create custom-applications for companies or industry-specific application system using Flash?

If anyone knows of any other reason that Mobile Phone or Devices manufacturers would want a Flash Player on their phones or devices, let me know. But assuming those are the only relavernt reasons... let's look at each.

If it is #1 -- Mobile Phone and Device manufacturers want a Flash Player on their phones and devices so users can view Flash web sites, applications, etc off of the Web on their phone or device -- then this "want" is dependent on how popular Flash is on the Web. In other words, it is dependent on how many Flash web sites are out there, and how many people continue to create Flash web sites. So, the risk here is that people may stop creating as many Flash sites (on the Web), and Mobile Phone and Device manufacturers may no longer see a compelling reason to put Flash Players on their mobile phones and devices anymore.

If it is #2 -- Mobile Phone and Device manufacturers can create their own in-house (Mobile Phone or Device) application systems using Flash, for their users -- then there is a large risk here. A Mobile Phone or Device manufacturer -- a single entity -- can always re-write their application system using another platform. And what if someone gives away their application platform for free (and makes money off some other product, like licensing their operating system, or something else), then Macromedia may face a big problem. (The switch, away from Flash, could even be part of their normal development cycle.)

If it is #3 -- Mobile Phone and Device manufacturers want Flash Players on their phones or devices so that consultants and in-house development teams can create custom-applications for companies or industry-specific application system using Flash, using their phone or devices -- then Macromedia still has ALOT of work to do. (Even though artists and designers love Flash) currently most software engineer do not perceive Flash as a real development platform.

So, what are the conclusions. You need people to keep on creating Flash stuff on the Web. (Flash website, Flash online games, Flash online applications, etc.) Also, you need to make Flash popular among software engineers.

So, what are your strategies for doing this?

For making Flash popular among software engineers, I can suggest a few things.

  1. Development Tools - Developers need proper development tools. Using Macromedia's Flash IDE is NOT sufficient! Now there's alot of development tools appearing on OSFlash. But more needs to be done. (Actually, while I was still writing this, Macromedia announced that they would be supporting Eclipse. So, that's a step in the right direction.) You may also want to assist the open source developers out there making tools and libraries for the Flash platform. (By giving the "info" they need.)

  2. Open Up The Server End - Now, Macromedia's Flash Communication Server is great and all. But I don't want to be forced to use it. The Web would have never taken off if HTTP servers were only made by one manufacturer. And neither will RTMP.

    Now, I can appreciate that you are trying to create a market for your RTMP server by making it integral to Flash. But, you can gain so much more, through the network effect, if you were to make the RTMP protocol as public as HTTP.

  3. Get University Students to Learn Flash - You know, there are ALOT of Java programmers out there because alot of Universities used Java to teach first year Computer Science students how to program. Microsoft realizes this, and worked at switching this to C#. If you want to popularize your platform, then popularize it at the Universities.

    But, before you do that, you'll need a better language than ActionScript! Now, I like ECMAScript based languages (like ActionScript and JavaScript), but I don't think they are suitable languages for teaching (or even that great for software engineering). You're going to need a better language. If you want a hint, create a language with true Functional Programming capabilities. As well as OOP stuff. Take a look at Nemerle if you want an excellent example. And it's even Open Sourced. So you could take this, and make it target the Flash virtual machine. (Note that I am NOT saying to get rid of ActionScript. Only to make other languages target the Flash virtual machine.)


Say No to DRM!
Well, it seemed like Intel had added DRM technology to their new processors. But later, Intel claimed they had No DRM

If you would have read my original draft of this diary post, I had some pretty strong and angry words about this. I had a pledge to no longer buy Intel based computers. And a pledge to make sure none of my clients purchase any Intel based computers either.

I hope Intel (and AMD, and VIA, and all the other hardware manufactuers) realize that there are alot of people who do NOT want DRM. And we will NOT take it being forced upon us. And some of us even have alot of influence in the decision making process with some large companies.

And even if these companies don't publicly come out and say they are against it. The decision makers in the companies are. And we won't purchase any DRM-encumbered hardware.

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