When you see Flash, Duck and Cover

The best thing anyone can do to continue making the Internet more closed, restrictive, and prohibiting is to use Adobe Flash as it exists today. The Internet was created to allow for the open and unconfined infrastructure to share information; yet, it is being used today for the opposite purpose: to stop this information torrent. Many people do not see Flash as an issue, and don’t view Adobe as a malevolent authoritarian. In fact, though, Flash is the biggest bottleneck on the Internet’s effectiveness in the same way that the variety of world languages spoken worldwide is the biggest bottleneck on the global social network. A change in Adobe’s business strategy with regards to Flash is the only way to turn this unnecessary throttle on the potential of the Internet-connected community into a true innovation and synergistic technology.

Some may not notice the restrictions we experience in our everyday lives. One such restriction is that of software like Flash. In the video market alone, Flash is the number one method used to control access to “intellectual property”. Flash does much more than just restrict video content, though. Unlike HTML and Javascript, which are saved in human-readable formats, Flash files are in a format that only computers can read, so nobody is able to see exactly what these files are doing to their computers. Because of this, anybody can restrict access to the content of the file itself, or even include viruses or other malicious software through the use of Flash Player.

The biggest restricting factor, though, is the fact that consumers must use the software distributed by Adobe in order to view Flash files in their entirety. This is a major problem because, with a 99% market penetration, Adobe can do anything it would like. Adobe Flash is installed on more computers than even Microsoft Windows, which naturally gives them a huge amount of power. The dependency of people on Flash Player is so great that Adobe could chose any day to shut all installations of Flash Player down until the user payed a $40 ransom fee. If Adobe ever fell short of money, this would be a convenient and no-hassle way to gain money, considering most people would end up paying this fee for access to games, videos, and a multitude of other possibilities online we often take for granted. This is only the tip of the iceberg, though. Adobe could block out competitors’ software, spy on the users, or even include a “back door” to allow employees to remotely control anybody’s computer. With Flash’s massive install base, Adobe could technically do anything they want to your computer.

Devoted individuals have begun developing alternatives through reverse engineering, such as “Gnash” and “swfdec”, but those are still unable to be completed due to the lack of cooperation by Adobe. Adobe initiated the “Open Screen Project” to give the appearance that it promoted choice in platforms and ease any fears regarding Adobe’s obsessive control, yet it really just restates the knowledge that was already gained through the effort of previous reverse engineering techniques. The only benefit of the Open Screen Project was the promise Adobe made not to sue any Flash-alternative projects, yet this promise, in reality, just affirms the excessive control Adobe has over the platform. Recently, Adobe sent a Cease and Desist to SourceForge, a company that hosts community-developed software projects, regarding a hosted project called “rtmpdump”. This project opened up features of Flash to average people that were previously only available in Adobe’s Flash Player. Despite Adobe’s claim to transparency and neutrality, SourceForge was required to remove rtmpdump from its site, confirming yet again the massive amount of power Adobe has.

A further issue with the Flash format is its dependency on software patented by multiple companies. These patents make Adobe’s promise worthless, as other companies also have the right to sue when their own patents are violated. Patent law was created to encourage innovation, but when computers entered the scene, corporations found they could benefit from the law by exploiting loopholes that allowed software to be patented. Eventually, trying to patent as many elementary concepts as possible became a business strategy, and any company who didn’t follow this strategy risked a lawsuit. Software patents have ranged from online tests to pop-up windows to hyperlinks to progress bars.  In addition, almost all of the major audio, video, and image formats are or have been covered under numerous patents. As you can well imagine, nearly all computer software is covered by multiple patents from various companies. The biggest companies pool their patents together and agree not to sue each other in exchange for access to the patents from the other biggest corporations. In this way, Adobe cannot be sued for using certain components in Flash, but everyone else can for using those same components.

With the inability for consumers to use any alternative Flash players besides the one created by Adobe, one would expect the official player to be of high quality, right? Studies have found the opposite to be true. Not only does Flash have a huge number of security problems, but it also slows down computers significantly, especially computers that run operating systems other than Microsoft Windows. Flash consumes an average of 50-80% of system resources on Mac OSX. The leading cause of crashes in the Mozilla Firefox web browser, according to the bug reports submitted by users, is the Flash Plugin. Unfortunately, this is something Mozilla cannot improve, no matter how badly their users want it, because Adobe will not allow it. Efficiency can be measured in more than just performance, though. Flash users who want to minimize their carbon footprint will be unhappy to know how negatively Flash affects power usage. Flash, especially banner ads cause ones computer to use much more energy. Simply disabling Flash saves an equivalent amount of power to turning off a light bulb.

The most logical solution to this problem would be for Adobe to allow open access to view, modify, and distribute to the code programmers will understand used to develop Flash. This strategy would have a multitude of benefits for not only consumers and Adobe as a company, but for society as a whole. Collectively, consumers would like the best possible experience online, and Adobe would like to make as much money as possible. Both of these private interests would be stimulated.

Consumers would benefit greatly with Adobe’s decision to allow open and unrestricted modification and distribution to its platform. Consumers would no longer have to worry about what would happen if Adobe tried to exercise excessive control over users, because anyone would be able to modify Flash to exclude the offending features. If this were to happen, Adobe would no doubt lose its reputation; however, if it were to happen today, it is possible that nobody would ever find out. It has been shown by projects such as the Linux kernel that those who can, will make changes to software to scratch personal itches. Corporations will naturally make changes to improve community-developed software when it will help that corporation’s own products. A multitude of corporations currently depend on Flash, making them all candidates to assist in improving Flash Player for the benefit of all. Speed is important to everybody, especially wealthy corporations that want their employees to be as productive as possible. As demonstrated by the Linux kernel, security and stability problems in community-developed software get fixed incredibly quickly.

Adobe is the party that would yield the largest benefit from opening up Flash. Adobe’s business strategy with regards to Flash is to develop a massive number of technologies centering around Flash, and then sell a really expensive software to create Flash videos. The vast majority of these technologies have opened source code to stimulate usage and entice those who like modifiable and redistributable software. Unfortunately for Adobe, these have not penetrated the target market because the product they depend on, Flash, does not allow modification or redistribution. Adobe’s other income with regards to Flash come from licensing versions of Flash Player for use on embedded platforms, such as cell phones. While it is logical to expect monetary reimbursement from large corporations for the ability to use Flash Player, problems arise when these corporations choose not to pay for the license. A notable example of this is with the iPhone. The lack of cooperation by corporations results in Adobe losing control, because it limits access to the software from potential users. Through the exploitation of this target market (all Internet-connected users) Flash has the potential to become a true standard; in this case, Adobe would hold the key to producing content for the standard: “Adobe Creative Suite 4”, its flagship product. Allowing public access and modification to a company’s software is the only way to allow other corporations to help increase that company’s market share. For example, Flash could be improved by search engine companies to allow content to be indexed more easily, benefiting all companies involved and allowing for further standardization.

There are other possible solutions to this problem, though they are not as elegant or effective. For instance, it is possible for some devoted activists to start a new software project to replace Flash. It would have similar features, but would not be compatible with existing Flash scripts. Though many appreciate the value of this type of project, it would nevertheless advance very slowly in what we have come to expect out of modern Internet-based technologies. It would also make extra overhead for the consumer, creating the need to install yet another web browser plug-in. Finally, this solution would divert developer time away from Flash Player alternative projects, such as Gnash and swfdec, which are increasingly necessary, and make it impossible to use the existing jungle of Flash scripts.

Another solution, though much less plausible, is for consumers to stop using Flash altogether. The problems that come attached to this solution are obvious, though. First of all, it is nearly impossible to raise awareness for any cause, especially one that takes a long time for people to understand. In addition, Flash has become too embedded within the lifestyles of many Internet-connected users to “just quit”. With dependencies on video sharing sites, education material, games, and more, only the most devoted users would be able to resist the pressure. This option would be much more effective as a protest technique to convince Adobe to allow modification than it would be as a solution on its own.

As you can see, Flash started out as a slightly obnoxious insect, but it grew over time into the monster that it is today. Adobe has too much control over the software. The control it has makes it impossible for Internet content to be truly accessible to everyone, and requires every user to subject his/herself to Adobe. It also carries a large number of problems along with it that Adobe has no desire to solve, as solving them would not increase its market share. By allowing the modification and redistribution of Flash, both Adobe and its consumers would benefit from the synergy that would be achieved. Nobody can build a skyscraper alone. Until Adobe makes Flash more permissible, Flash users have no choice but to sit in the monster’s mouth and hope it doesn’t get hungry.

This is a copy of the social injustice essay I recently wrote for Language Arts class. If you want the version with in-text citations and a bibliography, feel free to ask.

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Published in: on May 29, 2009 at 6:38 pm  Comments (35)  

35 Comments

  1. Actually, people can choose to not use Flash. I don’t; you shouldn’t either. But until the average idiot pulls their head out of their as5, and stops being a willing victim, everyone else is going to suffer, too.

  2. @AC – I completely agree. People can choose not to use Flash. Lots of Free Software programs can play flvs, or brave souls can choose to live without the garbage heap known as YouTube. (I admit, aside from unicorns and dancing bananas, there is a small amount of good stuff on there.) I would hope everybody follows our lead in disabling Flash, however I think that is highly unlikely. I’ve convinced a fair number of people to use GNU/Linux instead of Windows, but when I suggest disabling Flash, they shut me out completely.
    Which will come first: Adobe making Flash Free Software, or Gnash being usable? Something tells me pigs will fly before either one.

  3. HTML5 FTW.

    It’s hard to choose not to use Flash. It’s not just a technical decision, but a social decision — you cut yourself off from massive amounts of conversation.

  4. This post was well written. You laid out your arguments quite well, and quite clearly. You might also note the following response in case you wish to update this post.

    http://lxer.com/module/forums/t/29083/

    If you’d like, you can write for my blog as well, because we don’t often hear from those in high school very often. Feel free to drop me an e-mail if you’re interested.

  5. email me helios att gmial.com

  6. oops…helios17@ or whatever return email the comment reports

  7. Thanks for the interesting news. Learned a lot new to subscribe to your news. I would wait for new articles. Good luck.

  8. For those who search for an alternate video portal, point them to http://openvideo.dailymotion.com/
    The videos there are available in Ogg Theora and should run out of the box with the upcoming FireFox 3.5.

  9. Will html5 work towards solving this issue or rather provide an outlet to publishers to avoid using flash ?

  10. Well done, thank you. Confirms my perception that flash is one of the worst pieces of invasive, rude, insecure junk on the net.

  11. [...] When you see Flash, Duck and Cover The best thing anyone can do to continue making the Internet more closed, restrictive, and prohibiting is to use Adobe Flash as it exists today. The Internet was created to allow for the open and unconfined infrastructure to share information; yet, it is being used today for the opposite purpose: to stop this information torrent. Many people do not see Flash as an issue, and don’t view Adobe as a malevolent authoritarian. In fact, though, Flash is the biggest bottleneck on the Internet’s effectiveness in the same way that the variety of world languages spoken worldwide is the biggest bottleneck on the global social network. A change in Adobe’s business strategy with regards to Flash is the only way to turn this unnecessary throttle on the potential of the Internet-connected community into a true innovation and synergistic technology. [...]

  12. I agree completely with Max on this issue, and at first glance you think there isnt anything we can do. But there is, we can donate time and effort and money to projects like Gnash for a start. But, we can also encourage open browsers to add default plugins for alternatives (I dont know any), along with that, we need to make sure our own sites dont contain and use flash for anything. It is important that we clean house and build the alternatives, jus tlike Linux grew.

    Tsue Desu
    Small steps make a long journey more bareable than running…

  13. You’re right about some of the problems associated with flash, though you overstate some of the issues. The problem is that you’re appealing to the wrong crowd. Adobe has a vested interest in keeping flash proprietary. If they open up the platform, they run the risk of someone forking the project and taking away Adobe’s market share (in all honesty, opening flash would create the same forking madness that accompanies nearly every open source project…how many times do you really have to fork a single project?!!!). Ultimately, flash market share drives sales for other Adobe products from which Adobe gets a large portion of its capital. Adobe won’t be open sourcing flash…at least not if it wants to continue making money. Of course, that’s the problem with all open source projects: how do you make money off of something that anyway can get for free?

    You’re not doing any better by appealing to the web community. After all, we’re talking about a community that still uses IE6! The majority of user on the web are far too ignorant to care about the fact that their flash plugin uses proprietary code. Most of those who aren’t too ignorant still don’t care. Let’s face it, most people aren’t really all that concerned with open source vs. closed source.

    If you want things to change, you’ll have to appeal to a group other than the two you’ve been talking to. You have to appeal to the developers. Ultimately, developers decide what tools to use. Once Firefox 3.5 is out, developers will have a viable alternate to flash. The question is whether or not they will use it. Google is guaranteed to. I have no doubt YouTube will be HTML 5 compatible as soon as possible. You’re still not going to be able to get people to switch away from flash. However, by getting developers to use other technologies, you can remove the incentive for users to install the flash plugin. Developers are both intelligent enough to know what’s going on, and interested enough in open technologies to give HTML 5 a try where applicable. The developers are the people you want to target with something like this because the use of open technologies actually works to their benefit.

    • @Caleb Bennett –
      There are plenty of ways to make money off Free (“open source”) Software. Look at Red Hat! By opening up Flash, Adobe would be in the best possible situation: Flash would gradually increase in demand, while leaving Adobe still in charge of the supply. It is illogical for anyone to fork Flash. Forking Flash for use with a different format would serve no use. The new player could not play existing Flash files, so the forkers would also have to invent a compiler for people to use. Any forks that did not change the file format compatibility would do nothing but help Adobe, as they would increase Flash’s attractiveness as a platform for not only future end-users, but more importantly future developers.
      In regards to an appeal to the general web community, I admit no “average” user is probably going to read this article, and then drop everything and uninstall Flash player. What I am aiming to do is make the average web user aware of what is going on. I challenge you to ask any user you consider to be “average” if he/she sees any problems with the amount of Flash content on the Internet. Changes are that person will say “no”. To them, it may be the equivalent to a friend of yours telling you about how she hasn’t had Coke products since she saw KillerCoke.org. Chances are it will not make you order water at the next restaurant you go to that serves Coke products, but it will help you see Coke products in a different way.
      As for HTML5, it solves many of the same problems as Flash, but certainly not all of them. Games and advertisements in particular will never be nearly as compatible in HTML5, and the existing plethora of Flash scripts will not just disappear. In the same way that bars of soap will always be in use despite the invention of soft soap and foam soap, Flash will continue to exist and new scripts will be created for it, no matter what unparalleled modern technology we see in the future.

      • You’d be surprised what people fork, and how forks can damage a project. People don’t have to overhaul the flash virtual machine in order to make enough tweaks that it will no longer be fully compatible with the Adobe version. You’re assuming all of the people that work in open-source software do so rationally. This is not always the case. It would be irrational to fork flash, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be done. If it is done, and adds some impressive new feature in the process, there will be a hit in Adobe market share. It may not be devastating, but it will be there. It is possible for developers to make a version of flash that adds features while still maintaining backwards compatibility. People would be downloading the “newer and better” version of flash without thought. At first, this may not seem like an issue. However, who will developers then start getting the developer tools from? It wouldn’t take a majority of users downloading the new pseudoflash for developers to be downloading the dev. tools to take advantage of the new plugin. That’s cutting into Adobe’s profits.

        You also need to think through how this affects Adobe’s competitors. Microsoft’s Silverlight is crashing and burning. Unless something turns around quickly for Silverlight, it will most likely bite the dust. This is just one example of several competitors who stand to gain from a peek inside flash. Flash still has a technical leg up in many areas having to do with RIAA development. If Adobe’s source code goes out to all of its competitors, those competitors will be able to use said code to improve their products and be possible competition for flash. It’s like giving your competition all of your trade secrets. Actually, it’s not even “like” giving them away…it is giving them away. This could give Adobe problems in the future.

        HTML 5 gives web applications the ability to create custom graphics on the fly, play video and audio, run multiple processes (Workers), open socket connections, use persistent data storage, and present more semantic data. This gives HTML 5 near feature parity with flash (in fact, HTML 5 is far better than flash for many projects). You forget that flash is little more than a framework built on top of ECMA script (the same standard that sits at the core of JavaScript), along with a few core features added by Adobe. Those core features are now present in javascript through the dom. All that is left is the final performance barrier, and JavaScript will become a more promising platform than flash. For many things, like ads, videos, 2d games, and the like, JavaScript already has features that are drawing developers away from flash. If you want to accomplish something, appealing to developers to make more use of open web standards is the best way. You admit yourself that you won’t get anywhere with the web population other than “raising awareness”. While getting more developers to move away from flash won’t end the plugin altogether, it’s the best hope for an open future on the web.

        I don’t mean this to be offensive, but I have an honest question. Do you want to actually make a difference here, or are you just trying to make yourself feel better? The latter is the only thing fulfilled by “raising awareness”. I tried to “raise awareness” at my school not long ago about the fact that Pepsi was a major supporter of gay rights groups. This was a Christian private school, and I can almost guarantee you that every student there was a supporter of the traditional definition of marriage. But the fact that they knew about Pepsi’s support of Gay rights did not in any way change what kind of drinks they bought. I know that for a fact, as I sold pop during lunch. The fact is, “raising awareness” doesn’t go anywhere. It just makes you feel better when you do it. However, I would challenge you to do more than just “raise awareness” (by the way, I’m not trying to start anything over gay rights…that was just a real-world example).

  14. Nobody would download the “newer and better version” because it would not be compatible with practically every other flash video on the planet. Unless it is picked up by a website people depend on, most individuals will not download “yet another plugin”. If compatibility is broken, a new compiler and development platform would have to be created. After this work, what would be the benefit? What major corporation (the only ones that would matter) would make small changes to Flash and then try to get its new version in widespread use? Microsoft started from scratch with SilverLight and put their weight behind it, yet they hardly made a dent in the Flash market due to the fact that they were too similar. It had nothing to do with the technology not being “good enough” for consumers. Unless there are new changes that revolutionize the way people live, work, or play, nobody will bother using something new instead of something familiar.

    Please remember: chances are very slim that Flash would be forked. It has been shown that forking a vendor’s commercial Free (or “open source”) Software to take away market share doesn’t work. Java, the most comparable technology, hasn’t been forked. OpenOffice’s fork, Go-oo, doesn’t at all take away from its market share. It was started because specific patches were rejected, yet Go-oo users still consider themselves OpenOffice users. GNote was forked from Tomboy because the developers wouldn’t switch to another programming language. All forks tend to follow a pattern of forking when there is bad leadership. Most corporations provide very good leadership. It is just not profitable to fork commercial software to cut into the application’s market share.

    In regards to “raising awareness”, well, I’m a White Person. Do I really think somebody at Adobe will read this article and think “Man, what a novel idea! We should open up Flash!” No. There is very little information that questions the authority and control of Flash. When you look at the number of computers Flash is installed on, it is quite shocking. Adobe has the power to do almost anything it wants right now due to the sheer mass of online content it dominates. People have to understand exactly what is going on with the software they use. If you want to call it “raising awareness”, go ahead.

    • You’re not understanding me. You don’t have to break compatibility to change the system. A company could easily add a feature to flash without changing compatibility. It would be the same file format, just with a subtle change. It would prevent the newer format from running on Adobe’s flash, but not prevent older formats from running on the flash copycat. If the change included a new features that developers wanted to push, the new player would stand a real chance of gaining ground. That is the type of thing Adobe is afraid of, and it’s not all that hard to do. The newer flash could easily be marketed and installed over flash itself. That’s the kind of competition Adobe is afraid of. It probably wouldn’t happen, but it is none-the-less a legitimate fear. That’s what you don’t understand.

      Projects in linux are successful forked all the time. How many derivatives of Ubuntu are there again? It may not classify as a fork, but it’s the exact same thing I’m talking about. Developers will create an Ubuntu derivative that expands upon the original project, exactly as one could do in flash (though in flash it would be with code rather than deb packages). There are many examples of Ubuntu derivatives around that have been quite successful, at least as far as linux goes. No one cares about market share in the context of linux, but with flash, market share is everything. It may be unlikely that a fork would happen, but Adobe has nothing to gain by taking the risk. They have a ubiquitous platform that brings them a lot of money, and have no real need to improve upon it.

      What I’m saying…and have been saying for several comments…is that you are not trying to help the issue. You know full well that what you’re doing won’t help, but you won’t do anything that would. You know that neither Adobe, nor the general public care, but you won’t go to the group that both cares, and has the ability to make a difference.

      Enjoy your boycott, and have a wonderful day!

      • I’m sorry, maybe you misunderstood me. I just assumed that you knew that Adobe could re-incorporate any changes made by this competing company back into their main version of Flash if they saw any value. Adobe surely wouldn’t chose a non-reciprocal license, because this would be an awful business strategy.

        In regards to GNU/Linux, companies do indeed care about market share. Does Red Hat care if people use SLED over RHEL? Does Sun care if people use PostgreSQL over MySQL? Companies do make money from Free Software (or what you call “open source”) every day, and market share plays a vital role, as it does in any free market.

        Thank you for your kind words. I will indeed enjoy my “boycott”.

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  16. My point was that, in general, Linux-based operating systems do not care about market share. In the context of my statement, you’d be hard-pressed to prove me wrong. However, you are correct that some open-source projects do require a large market share in order to monetize their products.

    Yes, Adobe could re-incorporate the changes back into its flash product. However, it probably wouldn’t until the flash derivative had at least done some damage in terms of market share. That’s damage that gained Adobe nothing. Again, Adobe really doesn’t make any new money from open-sourcing their flash plugin. They would still need their own developers to maintain a stable code base and merge changes into the virtual machine, so they wouldn’t really be saving much money either.

    There are several success stories when it comes to monetizing free software. There are also quite a few failures. While it is possible to monetize open-source software, it cannot be argued that it is easy. In some cases, it is clear that the only way a company can survive is to use proprietary lock-down to push sales. The fact is that there will always be proprietary software on the market. It’s an easy and lucrative business model that people will continue to use.

    I will end my participation in this rather humorous discussion with this: don’t waste your time talking when you could be doing something far more productive.

    • GNU/Linux operating systems do indeed care very much about market share. The examples I gave before about Red Hat and SuSE are not the only ones. Ubuntu is run by Canonical, which provides support. The more people that use Ubuntu, the more money Canonical makes from support. Mandriva provides support, Fedora draws people to Red Hat, Vector sells a bunch of stuff to go along with it, and the list goes on. While not a traditional corporation, Slackware makes enough profit to develop it off the funding generated from merchandise and CDs. This amount of money would be nowhere near enough if Slackware was not as popular as it is. The only distribution I can think of that doesn’t benefit financially is Debian; however, non-financial incentives are important for developers as well. Social status is one of the most powerful. Being able to say “I implemented feature X in a project that is used by a huge number of people” and having your name in the changelog to prove it is much more valuable to every developer I know than writing a small application and never seeing anyone use it. Not only do more users draw more developers, but they also create a greater incentive for proprietary and Free application developers to port those applications to the operating system in question. “I just want to have fun programming” is a common stereotype of Free (“open source”) Software developers that was pretty much started by Linus Torvalds. Though he commonly used as your stereotype developer, he is far from average in most regards.

      In regards to forking, nobody would fork a project just to add a specific feature. Remember that forking involves not only including the new feature, but also maintaining the new trunk. If there was any company willing to go to that much work to do add these features, do you truly think Adobe would think, “Aww, those features won’t hurt our market share. Nobody cares about those.” Believe it or not, Adobe employees are people too. They see usefulness in features just like everyone else. Adobe employees would keep an eye on any forks that do occur, but chances are, there would be no supported forks, if any at all. No company is going to put the resources necessary into developing a fork if Adobe can copy those changes in a heartbeat.

      While there are a large number of failures, these failures are almost always a result of a lack of planning and a goal. Most of what you consider to be “failures” are really developers trying to make a little bit of money so that they may continue to program their software. Most of the time, these developers have no idea what they are doing and have never run a business, so they will fail as a result. In this case, Adobe’s goal with opening up Flash would be to increase its usage and enforce the standardization of the platform across multiple platforms. A side benefit would be improving the speed and performance of the Flash platform to make it more appealing to developers who want their site to function well for its users.

      I think it is important for you to understand that I do not feel like I am wasting my time. I am using my time to educate you (and anyone else who bothers to read all of these comments) and try to help you understand what is really going on. I personally don’t think education is a waste of time. I hope you don’t either, especially since I am giving up my time to educate you.

  17. This is so FUD…

    About Flash Player Security : the same rules applies in the Flash Player as in all others software. Security holes are found in Windows, OSX, IE, etc… all without the source code. Actually the number of real Flash security issues since the beginning of Flash is really low.

    About Open Source : the Flash Player is closed source. That’s a shame. But the contents played by the player are Open Source if the developper want to release the code. SWF is a binary format, it’s normal that you don’t see the source by pressing Ctrl+U ! It’s like compiled “.java” files : I you don’t have the “.class” files, you won’t see the code.
    And Javascript is NOT Open Source. If you look at Gmail JS files, you won’t learn anything about how it’s done : no comments, completly obfuscated code : not human readable AT ALL.

    About CPU use : It’s all matter of what you play in your player : Do the same in Javascript and your CPU will warm up as well. Have you tried CPU intensive HTML applications, like Netvibes or event Gmail ?

  18. I was going to end this, but your statement definitely warrants a response. Sorry, but I guess I lied.

    Canonical doesn’t make money (or, at least, not profit). Last time I checked, Mandriva definitely hasn’t been a corporate machine either (last I checked, part of their funds come from selling products with proprietary software integration). Very few companies really make money off of tech support on desktop linux simply because users can go onto public forums and get support that’s just as good. Enterprises will usually pay for tech support, but many desktop users don’t. That’s part of the reason systems like Redhat work (though their business model is based on more than tech support, which also has a factor). Large corporations are willing to pay for the tech support when dealing with linux. That’s why enterprise and server linux have been success stories, while desktop linux has yet to prove itself. As for merchandise sails, that usually amounts to little more than charity…not something most companies want to stake their business on. As a side note, I noticed that you didn’t include some of the major open-source business successes that are based on the incorporation of proprietary software/products. Firefox is a key example, being one of the most successful open-source projects in history if you go by market share. Mozilla has made an unquestionable contribution to the opening of the web. It also maintains the virtual machine used by Adobe flash, and links to Google (which is where it gets its money), a proprietary giant that is far bigger than Adobe.

    Microsoft is a key example of a company that ignored advances in open source, feeling entirely confident in its market supremacy. Monopolies often do. Adobe very well might. If there’s money to be made, someone will do it. The fact is that there’s money to be made in flash dev. tools. People will find ways to encroach on Adobe’s profits whether the code is open or not. Opening the flash source code just exposes them to more risk. As for gaining more use, does Adobe really care? It has near complete market supremacy. It’s flash product is already standardized as its source is controlled by one entity, and it already has near 100% use. It has become the unofficial standard for RIAA development.

    The product itself is based on open standards, and incorporates an open-source virtual machine (one to which they contribute, by the way), thereby reaping the benefits of open-source software without exposing themselves to the risks of opening up their own source (need I emphasise the fact that it’s a framework, not a vm). Adobe has even open-sourced some of its code in areas where they believe they have something to gain by it. Adobe isn’t a blind proprietary monster. It sees open source, and knows how to benefit from it. They don’t open the source code for their framework because it doesn’t present them with any major economic advantage.

    You said yourself that what you’re saying probably won’t be listened to on any major level. The fact is that those listening to you now predominantly agreed with you already. What good is a “teacher” if said teacher isn’t listened to? I can tell you right now that many teachers are wasting their time. I just graduated high school, so I know a fair deal about those who waste their time teaching to those who don’t listen. Developers listen, and a single developer can have far more influence than a user. Yet you don’t (in fact, you refuse to) try to convince developers to avoid flash…instead you target users…that’s been my biggest point this entire time. No matter how much I say, you will probably never agree with me about the lack of profitability for open-sourcing flash…just as I will probably never agree with you. We both have our reasons, which is why this debate has been one of the biggest issues with open-source software for the last few years. When I posted, I did not intend to cause a debate on this issue. My intent was to cause discussion on how best to fix the problems with Adobe flash specifically. You and I have both said that neither appeals to Adobe, nor appeals to the general web population are likely to succeed. Why not focus on finding something that would?

    I’d love to be able to say I’m done with this discussion, but we’ve all seen how that worked out last time. Until my next post, good luck and have a nice day!

    • What I was trying to do in my last post was talk about how market share does indeed matter in GNU/Linux distributions, and nothing more. In your last comment, you said that in GNU/Linux distributions, market share does not make a difference. Most of the cases I gave were horrible examples of being profitable in Free Software because the developers did not have the goal in mind of starting a huge corporation. They just wanted to earn enough money to support themselves so they could continue to do what they loved. If you want more information on how to make money with Free Software, I suggest you read “The Cathedral and the Bazaar”. Adobe’s decision, though, is much different. When existing companies are in question, you cannot generalize. Each company has different strategies/goals and is in a different situation. I would never claim it would be smart business for Microsoft to open up Windows, but in Adobe’s case, it is highly logical.

      Regarding a target audience, I would like to remind you again that my goal is to inform all parties involved (users and developers), not to get the attention of somebody at Adobe. Part of the reason for this is that there is no one group you can target here. Adobe doesn’t care because it is a large corporation. Most users probably won’t change instantly because developers create stuff for Flash. Developers won’t instantly take the time to learn any new framework when the one they are currently using has more market penetration than any other framework will ever have. Developers have access to Free and Open compilers for ActionScript already. Users don’t. Users are the ones affected most, and users probably make up the majority of those who would read an article like this. Therefore, I focus most of my time on the user. What I aim to do is give people a view into some of the issues with something most people don’t think twice about. I am glad to read some of the other comments, though, that tell me not everyone in the world feels the need to blindly criticize someone’s work.

  19. In response to the person who posted just before me, JavaScript is an open standard. There’s a difference in how Google uses JavaScript and what JavaScript is. Yes, it is possible to copywriter and obfuscate JavaScript code (for the record, obfuscation also bring performance benefits when dealing with JavaScript), but that does not mean JavaScript comes with a proprietary license. There are closed elements to the W3C standards process, but many of those are necessary given the nature of standardization, and the standards group itself. However, all W3C standards are freely licensed, and based on technologies that have non-restrictive licenses.

  20. if anybody missed the reference…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duck_and_cover

  21. Hi, I’m not sure how I can help here… I see that you started with your conclusion, and then asserted various arguments, but I didn’t see how the case was actually made. (I did kill a tree in the process of reading, though…. :(

    Here’s some context on individual points you raised, in linear order:

    I think it’s great to have remixable video. But if a video creator does not wish their work to be remixed, then I can respect that too. We should support both choices.

    It’s true that SWF itself is not human-readable. It’s similar to PNG or audio in that way.

    If Adobe tried to shut down Flash Players until a $40 fee was paid, or started activating webcams without permission, or did other onerous things, then I suspect we’d get some radically corrective feedback soon enough…. ;-)

    Gnash, SWFDec, and other engines descended from Oliver Debon’s early ports, which in turn was based on Macromedia sourcecode. (We stopped providing runtime source when the risk of fragmentation grew too high.) Since then many of Flash’s protocols and runtime code have been published.

    The Open Screen Project actually does provide earlier access to runtime source code to manufacturing partners, and incorporates their requests to further optimize the runtime for their devices. The program is not a figleaf — if it were, it wouldn’t work. ;-) Expect to see this next-generation of devices start arriving early next year.

    I don’t know the full rtmpdump story, but believe it to be substantially different than what was portrayed in the recent social-media campaign. We publish RTMP for others to use, but advertising how to bump doorlocks is another thing entirely.

    Yes, Adobe pays codec developers millions of dollars for the privilege of equipping the world’s consumer machines with high-efficiency codecs. This helps everyone. But we can’t give their licensed code away, that’s true.

    Flash’s security record is actually stronger than that of browsers. Most of the things we fix are prohibitions against asking the browsers to do things they oughtn’t, or protections against novel malformed files which can cause hangs. Browser problems, such as clickjacking, get blamed on Flash. And if your Mac browser fails, try using a Flash blocker… you’ll see it still fails. We’re trying hard to remove the differences between operating systems and browsers, but that doesn’t mean we can guarantee complete success at that useful goal.

    Adobe has published both protocols as well as runtime code. We can’t “open the whole thing”, because we license high-performance audio and video decoders from others. But Firefox would not have competitive JavaScript performance today, were it not for Adobe’s donation of the nanojit runtime code to Mozilla. PDF is already under the governance of ISO. Adobe is a lot more “open” than antagonists describe.

    You can create SWF or video without buying anything from Adobe. We create ecosystems, with many competitors within it.

    The licensing for embedded use has gone away with Open Screen Project. I suspect Apple’s issues were not due to Flash Lite licensing. (And wouldn’t it be nice to have some corresponding transparency on that front?)

    SEO discussions usually ignore “On what terms will people search for you, and on which of those terms can you place on the first page?” Search engines have found both text and links within SWF for years, and the recent Ichabod work allows Google spiders to evaluate application state. Most of the talk I’ve read on SWF SEO has repeated the same errors of fact. But that’s another story…. ;-)

    If you can create a competitive media engine, that’s great. What many of us don’t like about the GOOG/AAPL/Moz keiretsu is that it’s denigrating plugins… instead of improving plugin support, they’re trying to control their own stack, picking the low-hanging fruit. Give me Silverlight any day…. ;-)

    If you were really “subject to Adobe”, I could cut your YouTube privileges right now. But I can’t. And I’m glad of that. That isn’t the way Adobe has worked, either historically, or currently.

    As you can see, above I’ve addressed various points, and they now risk further digression. But I’m more interested in your core point “Flash is the biggest bottleneck”. Can you make a nice, direct case for your conclusion, please?

    tx, jd/adobe

    • @jd –
      In regards to shutting down Flash player and/or spying, it is true that people may never trust Flash player again. Microsoft seems to have gotten away with both of these deeds for a long time, but things like that coming from a seemingly innocent company like Adobe may create different results. Of course, these are also just examples. They may or may not be smart business practices now, but in the near future, who knows? Kamikaze-ing the Flash line may be a fast way to gain a few bucks under certain circumstances. Turning on webcams/microphones could give researchers at (or companies working for) Adobe a new insight on the people who use Flash, and what they do when they use it. Again, these are just examples. Much more or less oppressive techniques could be used with similar consequences.

      As for the Open Screen Project, I could read the “About” section because it does not depend on Flash. :) It states that the goal of the project is to “Enable consumers to engage with rich Internet experiences seamlessly across any device, anywhere.” Without completely open, modifiable, and redistributable code, though, this will never become a reality. Haiku OS, for instance, will probably never have a port of Flash because there is no major corporation supporting it. This holds true for a multitude of smaller OS’s with no corporation support. What I am getting at is that the goal seems to imply a consumer-based approach, but in reality, it only improves the choice, options, and accessibility of other major corporations who really wouldn’t have minded paying Adobe any amount of money necessary to get what they wanted. This goal will never be accomplished 100% without a completely open, modifiable, and redistributable Flash.

      I have a gripe with sites that use Flash and think that it serves the same use as HTML code. It is not an argument against Flash player; it’s just an argument against the usage it gets. This is the problem with binary formats. Binary formats protect content, even when not even the author wants the content protected. As you mentioned, Google has found a way to do index this, but what about every other search engine? What about applications that index your site for other purposes? What about keyword analyzers? Another problem is that the webmaster may have to go to greater lengths to update the content, as it is often not presented dynamically. This is more of a personal gripe, though, and really doesn’t contribute to my point about Flash. :)

      Adobe did a WONDERFUL job with PDF! Bravo! However, even companies that do good things can do bad ones. Google is a great example of this. Adobe can still do whatever it wants with Flash Player, though. Maybe you personally don’t know how to cut someone’s YouTube rights, and it’s very possible that there is currently no way, but if there were a way, why would Adobe tell all of its employees how? The average user assumes things about Adobe that shouldn’t be assumed.

      Flash is the biggest bottleneck because it is by far the most widely used technology that is still under the complete control of a single corporation. Restrictive client-side technology forces anyone who must view the content to use only one piece of software controlled by one company: Adobe Flash Player. If one wishes to avoid the issues, vulnerabilities, and uncertainties of using Flash Player, one must avoid Flash content. That is not how the Internet should work!

  22. Hi, sorry, no, that’s not making a case. That’s asserting a dozen claims, getting better info, and then asserting another dozen claims.

    jd/adobe

  23. Well, this is just a rant, neither objective nor very close to how things work on the web. 98% of web users would consider your opinion a very luxurious problem. Technologies ALWAYS evolve towards something rather than away from something that is considered to be evil by an elite minority. This rule makes every single point in your article completely obsolete.

  24. I haven’t read all the comments yet, but just a word on open versus closed technologies: have you considered the fact that a SWF is actually downloaded and can be reverse engineered by the user? While a PHP page cannot?
    In this view PHP is more closed than flash. You don’t know what’s going on and you can’t freely use and copy PHP scripts unless they’re made downloadable in an open source project (which they mostly aren’t).

  25. > …Eventually, trying to patent as many elementary
    > concepts as possible became a business strategy…

    Tech companies really do do this all the time, every little thing that gets developed seems to be attempted to be patented. Seems like Apple tries to do one every other day and I still remember when ‘OneClick’ tried to rule all shopping by owning the ‘Buy Now’ button.

    Adobe’s absolute control of flash (in essence all moving images) on the web is daunting, especially considering the security issues you pointed out above. I’ve experience a few of these security issues. Adobe released the alpha x86_64 linux client about a year ago and is only now seeing a small update. No bugs were fixed only a few security issues that were described generically in a passing way. Adobe gobbing up Macromedia may have been the worst thing for the graphic’s industry of computers. Some companies enjoy creating and can do it without competition, some build, entrench, then decide that it’s easier just to defend. I really used to enjoy Adobe, really hoping theora isn’t just a piper’s dream.

  26. This is a great site for students, visit http://www.itprojectsforyou.com

  27. I see no mention of Java FX. It could well be a strong contender to flash.

  28. [...] So it has nothing to do on an open web. Read more about this in this article: When you see Flash, duck and cover. [...]


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