A few weeks back, I had dinner in Seattle with Ryan Stewart and Brian Zug. Over the course of several hours we covered a number of topics, including a crash course in open source software. Yesterday Ryan posted some of what he learned during our conversation, including his conclusions about whether or not open sourcing the Flash Player was a good idea. That post generated a bunch of traffic, so Ryan put up a follow up post on his personal blog.
Unfortunately, many people reading Ryan’s post or one of the aggregated excerpts didn’t have the context which prompted the dinner and the posts. All of this took place in the context of three blog posts which I wrote last month where I took a look at Adobe’s Flex/Apollo technology from the point of view of the openness of the technology. I’m interested in Flash only as a component of Flex. I’m not interested in singing/dancing web pages or in Flash based ads, but much of the reaction to Ryan’s post was centered around traditional uses of Flash in web pages. Many people said “oh, open sourcing it will destroy compatibility”. Yet the context of the discussion included ways of maintaining compatibility.
The most interesting response that I found was from Ted Patrick at Adobe. Ted shed some light on the ways that Adobe/Macromedia have involved customers in the development of previous versions of the Flash Player. This was useful information to have — I think that I was probably more ignorant of these facts than Ryan was, truth be told – and suggests to me that there is some culture of working with people outside of Adobe/Macromedia. Perhaps most encouraging was his acknowledgment that Adobe could be more open. Of course that’s not a commitment to be more open, and indeed, he warns that becoming more open will not happen overnight. I am not expecting something to happen overnight — after all, I’ve waited 9 years for Java, and am still waiting. The wheels do have to start turning sometime, though.