Open: Good for developers, good for consumers

by Dave McAllister

It seems the Adobe Flash Platform is in the news a lot these days as people discuss its exclusion from certain web-enabled devices. We think this debate presents a great opportunity to reiterate the philosophy behind the Open Screen Project and what openness means to Adobe.

What do we mean when we talk about openness? Among other things, Adobe believes that content providers and developers should be free to publish their content to the open web and distribute their applications through any marketplace or distribution vehicle they see fit. We feel it's not up to us to decide for users what content is best for them and which content they should and shouldn't access. We believe that the consumers of that content should be free to decide where they access the content and on their choice of devices.

This is the fundamental philosophy behind the creation of the Open Screen Project. Now in its third year, the Open Screen Project has brought together close to 70 partners to enable the delivery of rich, multi-screen experiences built on a consistent runtime environment for open web browsing and standalone applications. The Open Screen Project has created an ecosystem that matches Adobe's vision, leaving the device, platform, and browser choice to consumers. Anything less would stifle innovation and diminish the value that the web can bring to all of its constituents.

Openness is part of Adobe's culture and heritage from the beginning, with roots in PostScript and PDF through to our more recent and active work in open source and open content. Our commitment is to remain an open company, be it through source, standards, community, and/or content creation.

Like many software platforms, Adobe Flash has traveled its own journey to openness. Today, it is one of the most open ecosystems to develop for and with. The ability to create cross-platform content gives designers and developers creative control to deliver a consistent user experience without worrying about platform, device, browser, or screen-size differences. Content providers benefit because an open platform lets them distribute content to the greatest number of users, and that's what makes Flash Player such a ubiquitous runtime even now.

Adobe's commitment to openness is evident in its track record. The Flash file format (SWF) specifications are open and unrestricted, so any company or person can build their own SWF player if they choose to. Also freely available are related specifications for the Flash ecosystem: FLV/F4V, AMF, and MCD. Flex, the framework for creating rich Internet applications (RIAs), is open source. The Text Layout Framework, which is the same text engine that drives typography in Flash Player, is open source. OSMF is an open source framework for building video deployment solutions using the Flash Platform. Tamarin, the virtual machine powering Flash Player, is open sourced at Mozilla.

Adobe is also at the leading edge when it comes to adopting other critical open or industry standards into our tools and content workflows. So while we continue to innovate with Flash, we will put equal energy into providing support for HTML5-based development throughout our creative tools such as Dreamweaver. In fact, recently we released an extension for Dreamweaver CS5 that provides features to help users generate HTML5 and CSS3 code. On the other hand, we include support for proprietary formats such as H.264 video to provide broad support for video content across the Internet. Most recently we announced our commitment to add the newly open sourced VP8 codec. Again, the philosophy here is to support standards—open or proprietary—that allow developers and content owners to reach their consumers through a consistent and cost-effective platform.

The bottom line is that Adobe believes in not only making runtimes approachable and in adopting industry standards, but also encourages industry-wide collaboration to foster the broader openness of content. As history has shown, efforts to control user choice rarely succeed in the long run. That's why we feel it's best to embrace openness now and leave it to end users—not Adobe or any one company—to decide how they should consume content.

Learn more about openness at Adobe
Visit the Adobe Open Source site
View the Open at Adobe video
Get the real facts about Flash
Learn more about the Adobe Dreamweaver CS5 HTML 5 Pack

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Dave McAllister is Director of Standards and Open Source at Adobe.