Web 2.0 play: Adobe open-sources ActionScript VM
In a move that could encourage the emergence of more dynamic online experiences like YouTube and Google Maps, Adobe Systems (ADBE) is giving away the engine behind its Flash player.
Adobe is open-sourcing its ActionScript Virtual Machine. It has contributed the code to the Mozilla Foundation, provider of the free Firefox Web browser, marking the biggest single contribution to the foundation since it was established in July 2003.
- What does it mean?
Another way to read this: Adobe is offering up secrets from its popular Flash player, hoping it will become the de facto standard on which tomorrow’s Web applications will be built. Adding weight to the offering, Mozilla plans to release a version of Firefox built from the foundation of this ActionScript VM code sometime in 2008.
Unfortunately for those of us who aren’t programmers, the impact of this is tough to grasp. Does it mean Adobe will help other people build Flash authoring products? Adobe says no.
What I think it means is that Adobe is taking the covers off the engine that presents all that video from the likes of YouTube, hoping that companies large and small will choose it as the common engine for presenting Web 2.0 software like Google Docs & Spreadsheets, and Yahoo Maps. Here’s an Adobe employee’s take on the value of the ActionScript VM.
“Adobe’s work on the new
virtual machine is the largest contribution to the Mozilla Foundation
since its inception,” said Brendan Eich, chief technology officer of
have a high-performance, open source virtual machine for building and
deploying interactive applications across both Adobe Flash Player and
the Firefox Web browser. We’re excited about joining the Adobe and
Mozilla communities to advance ECMAScript.”
- Inviting competition
Adobe’s move eventually could open up the possibility of other companies “doing their own Flash player,” or otherwise competing with Adobe, CEO Bruce Chizen said in an interview with me several days ago, before the Mozilla deal was complete. But it’s a risk Adobe’s willing to take. “Shame on us if we can’t out-innovate the competition.”
When talking about Adobe’s ongoing challenge to build its business while also being open with the developer community, Chizen offered some reflections that may illuminate his thinking behind the ActionScript VM move:
“It really is a tension between those who can be blinded by making money,
and those who want to do what’s right for the [developer]
community regardless of the business outcome. My job is to balance the
needs of both communities. Where these issues come to a head is in meetings
where the champion for a standards body is at odds with those who are
responsible for making sure that we deliver the appropriate results for
our shareholders,” Chizen said. “I have to decide.”
InformationWeek has this angle:
Adobe’s decision to open source the Flash scripting engine can also be
seen as an effort to counter Windows Presentation Foundation/Everywhere
(WPF/E), a subset of Microsoft’s graphics display platform that will compete with Adobe’s Flash technology.
The biggest threat to Flash, says Richard Monson-Haefel, senior analyst
at the Burton Group, is Ajax and Microsoft. “I think what they’ve
realized is Ajax has just taken off,” he says. “It’s either jump on the
Ajax ship or get left behind.”
- What do you think?
Clearly, I’m no expert on Web development or ActionScript. (Could you tell?) Often, readers know more. So weigh in below: What do you think? Is this a good move by Adobe? Will SpiderMonkey rule? And what does it mean for Microsoft?