Adobe is “opening” Flash (a bit)


Adobe is opening up Flash (a bit)…

VentureBeat reports:

“Adobe’s goal … is to create a consistent runtime environment for applications running on computers, televisions, mobile devices and consumer electronics.”

And, according to ReadWriteWeb:

“Adobe will be releasing the file format specifications for Flash (.swf and .flv/f4v) and removing all licensing restrictions involved with the Flash format.”

Time for a “golf clap,” I say. Cheerio.

As a veteran of open standards for the Web, I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with Flash. It really delivers on the promise of the Web as a new medium, especially in applications like YouTube. Honestly, it blows my mind, and I love it. If only it weren’t proprietary.

Do you know how it all happened? Macromedia bought a little company with a vector-graphics runtime.

According to Wikipedia:

“To jumpstart its web strategy, the company made two acquisitions in 1996. First, Macromedia acquired FutureWave Software, makers of FutureSplash Animator, an animation tool originally designed for pen-based computing devices. Because of the small size of the FutureSplash viewer application, it was particularly suited for download over the Web, where at the time most users had low-bandwidth connections. Macromedia renamed Splash to Macromedia Flash, and following the lead of Netscape, distributed the Flash Player as a free browser plugin in order to quickly gain market share.”

Then, somehow, they got Netscape to bundle the Flash runtime with their browser. And it was that magical/crazy moment in the “browser wars” that created the conditions for something truly unprecedented to happen. Microsoft blinked.

Yep. The browser was to be the “new OS.” That made everything Web-related life-or-death for Microsoft. What should Microsoft do in response to Netscape integrating some random vector graphics animation runtime? Quick, quick, copy them and cut a deal to get that thing into our browser!

I was working at that time to get broad adoption of a competing vector graphics format, one that had the benefit of being truly open, but that’s another story…

And so Flash became a ubiquitous “standard” of the Web.

Fast forward 15 or so years. Microsoft is head-butting Adobe with Silverlight. And so we see “Adobe Open Screen.”

CNET shines a spotlight on the tussle between competing “write once, run anywhere” visions. Thank you.

More on the Flash vs. Silverlight battle at ComputerWorld.

I wonder what Marc Canter, godfather of opening up the Social Web thinks about all this?

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