News 'Flash': Adobe Gets More Open-Source Friendly

Over the years, Adobe has become more Linux friendly. First, Adobe released an excellent version of its Flash Player for Linux, and, more recently, the company launched a version of AIR (Adobe Integrated Runtime) for Linux. Now, however, with Strobe, its just announced Flash framework, Adobe looks like it may be getting more open-source friendly as well.

Strobe, which will show up in the third quarter of 2009, is an open framework for creating SWF (ShockWave Flash) server-side players. With Strobe, content creators and Web developers will be able to easily create sites that host their own video.

According to the Adobe, Strobe will be teamed up with the Open Screen Project to create easy-to-deploy Flash players via a consistent runtime that will run on not just Linux, Mac and Windows PCs, but on all other platforms such as phones and televisions.

The Strobe-based players are to offer dynamic streaming and DVR functionality as well the usual Flash video goodies. Adobe also claims that Strobe will serve as "a foundation for the development of third-party plug-ins to provide functionality such as CDN (content distribution network) support, advertising, reporting, social networking, and interactive experiences."

Adobe knows that it's they're to get their claim in as the video infrastructure of choice for the ongoing battle between Hulu, Joost, Netflix, and everyone else who wants a slice of the Internet-based VOD (video on demand) universe, they need to make Flash technology open technology. What we don't know, however, and neither does Adobe it would seem, is exactly what they're going to open and how open it will be.

At this point, Adobe is claiming that Strobe will "offer free code and components that developers, partners, and customers can download from Adobe.com." But, what does that mean? In a conversation with Adobe engineers, I learned that Adobe has not decided on a license yet.

The intent, I'm told, is to make Strobe as open as possible. It's likely that there will be two versions of Strobe: an open-source version with basic functionality and a commercial one that comes with deployment support. In any case, Adobe plans to enable developers to work with Strobe with third-party tools as well as Adobe's own Flash tools like Adobe Flash CS4 Professional and Flex Builder.

To make sure that the Flash family beats out the likes of Microsoft's Silverlight with its Linux little-brother Novell's Moonlight, Adobe is also considering open-sourcing its flagship Flash player.

As part of the Open Screen Project, Adobe has already opened up much of Flash. For example, Adobe is supporting the Mozilla Foundation with the Tamarin Project. Tamarin is an open-source implementation of Adobe's ActionScript 3 language, which is Flash's scripting language. Adobe has also its own open-source Flash-related projects such as BlazeDS, a Java-based implementation of AMF (Action Message Format), which is used to integrated back-end DBMSs with Flash applications.

To really make Flash open, however, the video codecs within the SWF container format, must be opened up. These codecs are On2 Technologies' VP6 and Sorenson Spark. While, there are already several good open-source Flash players, such as the Free Software Foundation's Gnash and Swfdec, none of them are truly feature compatible with Adobe Flash 10.

If Adobe really wants to knock out its competition, I highly recommend that it take the most open approach possible to Strobe and the entire Flash-family. This way, neither Microsoft nor any other would-be Internet media competitor, will be able to keep Adobe and its partners from dominating the tomorrow's broadband-dominated VOD world.

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