Lately, Adobe representatives and Flash fan boys alike became more vocal than usual about the alleged openness of Flash. This is probably spurred by the proposed feature set of HTML5, as well as the decisions of a certain vendor to ban Flash from some of their products, both potentially being threats to Adobe and the Flash Platform.
I originally posted the following article as comment to an article by Serge Jespers, “Flash is as open as HTML5“. Serge is an Adobe Platform Evangelist. I thought this comment deserves its own post, so here we go.
No, it isnâ€™t.
And it is beyond me why so many independent Flash Platform developers fail to see it. I completely understand of course why Adobe evangelists downplay it.
It is irrelevant for the so called â€œopen webâ€ whether the Flash Player is going to get open sourced or not. Thatâ€™s not the point. Microsoft wonâ€™t open source their browser, Opera wonâ€™t open source their browser, etc.
Relevant is who decides about the development of the data format that a runtime consumes, and the APIs a runtime provides to access that data. In the Flash world thatâ€™s SWF and the Flash Player APIs, both controlled by a single vendor: Adobe. In the HTML world thatâ€™s HTML and DOM, controlled by many vendors, including you and me, via standards bodies.
Adobe neither provides formal means for other companies and individuals to participate in the development of SWF and Flash Player APIs, nor does it provide detailed work-in-progress specs to the general public for discussion. This effectively rules out the possibility for third parties to provide alternative runtimes. The runtime and its specs are released to the public at the same time.
This is the exact opposite of â€œopenâ€.
To make matters worse, the specs released by Adobe are incomplete and buggy (e.g. the SWF spec fails to explain how exactly shapes are supposed to be rendered and leaves out information on codecs, the ABC spec is plain wrong on some things) and generally infested with patented technologies.
Of course i understand why it is how it is (and likely always will be). If Adobe were to become truly open and put the development of SWF etc in the hands of standards bodies, the 1.5 year release cycle would become a 10+ years release cycle. Innovation would slow down significantly. I as a Flash Platform developer wouldnâ€™t want that to happen.
However, sorry to say that, but to tout â€œFlash is as open as HTML5â€³ is pure FUD.