At this years Multi-Mania we had an interesting panel discussion on open source Flash with Edwin van Rijkom, Christophe Herreman , Serge "Sergio" Jespers and myself -- excellently moderated by Aral Balkan. I've always considered myself a bit of an open source disciple though it might not have come across that way from the discussion (I blame it on the bouncy balls). In practical terms I use open source tools to help me with my development workflow not replace it. For example Eclipse as an ActionScript editor, AMFPHP as a Flash Remoting gateway, AsUnit for unit testing and occassionally the ARP framework and Screenweaver for building desktop applications.

That is not to say that doing Flash development using an AMES setup is not incredibly cool and useful to certain people, I myself find it rather tedious and not particularly easy to set up as compared to using the Flash IDE.

More importantly I don't want to run the risk of any compatibility between a compile from my AMES setup and the Flash IDE when I pass the code back to the client. What I thought was one of the most important points that came out of the discussion is the need for open standards, which does not imply that the tools need to be open source.

Coming to the highly debated point of an open source Flash Player, I see two reasons why these projects come to life:

  • Flash Player support on an operating system like Linux where the lead time for getting a new player from Adobe is much longer
  • Extending functionality of the player to support specific features

That first point certainly has my sympathy, given the Linux marketshare is relatively small for Adobe it doesn't make a lot of commercial sense to put as many resources on the Flash Player for that platform. Ideally we would of course like to see it come out at the same time as a Flash Player for Windows and Mac.

Looking at extending functionality of the Flash Player is a more dangerous idea. Its been said before and I'd also like to echo this, fragmenting SWF playback across a variety of browser plugins is not in the best interest of anyone (except perhaps Microsoft ;))

I for one don't want to start writing conditional code in my Flash content to figure out what particular flavour of Flash Player my content is running in and work around inconsistencies.

I think there are obvious opportunities for Adobe to tackle these issues. Why not open up the Linux Flash Player and make it a community effort controlled by Adobe? They could oversee compatibility and do quality assurance. As for enhancing the Flash Player there is a clear need for runtime extensibility which could conceivably be leveraged through the binary sockets in future releases.

Thanks to Ronald Bastiaens, Koen de Weggheleire and all the other Multi-Mania guys and girls for putting on such an excellent event again. Looking forward to the next edition!

If you want to read some further reviews of the event, check out these blogs: