Article: Open Source Flash Player

Internet News has an article on a new project to build an Open Source Flash Player.

the article itself is fairly high level, and contains a number vague, and seemingly incorrect quotes from the founder maintainer of the project.

“Gnash has been developed only using freely available documentation and tools, so it can be a free implementation of a closed proprietary format,” Savoye explained.

SWF may be proprietary (seems likely, but to be completely honest, i’m not even entirely sure on that point); however it is most definitely not closed, as the SWF file format SDK is freely available on the web.

JD has touched on some of the issues surrounding an open source Flash Player (here and here)

the rationale expressed by the lead developer on this project doesn’t ease any of my concerns over preserving predictability on “Other People’s Machines”

“Most Flash movies on the Net are older Flash formats, which is why that’s the current focus for the near term,” Savoye said.

I understand the argument that these folks are building a player for FreeBSD becuase Macromedia had declined to. Part of the reason for the significant cost associated with building a Flash Player for a new platform is that Macromedia has traditionally taken great pains to ensure backwards and forwards compatibility within the Flash Player – I’m concerned creating a player branch that has unpredictable experiences could have some ugly side effects.

It sounds like people using this player may not have access to certain types of content, and that the content that can be accessed will be determined by the Gnash group’s schedule and timeline. Or, you could just “roll your own”. I’m not sure how that is a clear improvement over the current status quo, though I guess it could be argued that it gives *some* support to Free BSD. But at what cost to the larger community? Am I missing something? Feel free to comment in the, er, comments section.

5 Responses to Article: Open Source Flash Player

  1. Though there may be a quality issue, installation challenges and other unknowns, I don’t think it will be as you said “a cost to the larger community” having an alternative flash player, or in this case, a flash player for BSD. It’s true the file format is open and I wish that programmers with these skills were making programs that would create flash files. For example a powerful slideshow to flash exporter or something. The end result will be good for the community. Something will happen during the development, perhaps some programmers will begin to understand the tools and apply them elsewhere on projects where flash support is useful. Another nice program they could try would be a flash standalone player(non browser) so apps could run on BSD on the desktop built in flash. Also building in flash support into the PDF readers that BSD uses.

  2. argonauta says:

    who knows, this could eventually mean the psp could have a flash player, even if it’s a basic one.

  3. A minor correction:You said “SWF may be proprietary; however it is most definitely not closed, as the SWF file format SDK is freely available on the web.”The file format is free “as in beer” but not free “as in speech”. From the SDK licensing page:”This license doesnot permit the usage of the specification to create software which supports SWF file playback”.Some would argue that this means that it isn’t truly “open”.Regards,Rob

  4. steve says:

    Rob – good point. I’m out of my area of expertise on this one, so i’ll probably refrain from commenting much more. I just saw this an interesting article and something that both Adobe and the open source community are going to have to deal with one way or another. However, i’d like to thank you all for commenting on my brand new blog :-)-sw

  5. anonymous says:

    Did all versions of the specification license agreement (going back to Flash 4) include this restriction in the license text? My guess is no. If that is the case I believe software law in the US allows certain forms of reverse engineering to remain compatible. Any lawyers here that can chime in?Here’s a parallel article that gives some data on the subject of clean room and reverse engineering:http://www.ardi.com/reveng.php