Open letter to Adobe – release Flash under the GNU GPL today

Dear Adobe,
No doubt you’ve seen the news that Microsoft and Novell are to work on a version of Silverlight for GNU/Linux. This puts Silverlight onto all three major platforms now, and puts yourselves and us into a difficult position. As the free software community, we want users of computers to have freedom to do all the jobs they can, including all those nice interactive websites out there that use Flash. We have Gnash now, but it’s not finished yet, but it at least lets us look at YouTube movies in the browser with little or no problem, and Homestar Runner works very well as well. We’re not there yet, but we’re getting somewhere. Now, from your point of view, you give away the Flash player, but only in binary form, which means that while I’m sure it’s better than Gnash, your license prevents us from using it with freedom. So, here’s the rub… if you’ll do a little thing for us, we can do some great things for you. We can help you beat Microsoft and crush Silverlight, but you’re going to have to do something a little unusual, and a lot of people at Adobe aren’t going to like it, but you have to do this and do it quickly.
Here goes… Make Flash free software, specifically, release Flash – the player, the editor, the server, for all platforms, including embedded stuff, under the GNU GPL v3 and do it quickly. As soon as you do this, we can start to win. We can get Flash Player onto the One Laptop Per Child machines, which gets a ton more eyeballs looking at Flash. We can get gNewSense, Ubuntu, Debian, Red Hat, Fedora, SuSE, Slackware, Mandriva and all the others to distribute Flash Player with their distributions. OpenSolaris can have Flash Player, too. You can still sell copies of the Flash editor, in lovely cardboard boxes on the shelves of computer stores, even as Free Software – you just need to add value. Bundle DVDs of freely licensed shapes, characters, sounds, loops and effects and dead-tree editions of your now freely licensed manuals, and people will still buy it, and of course, you bundle it in with things like Creative Suite, so it gets onto more machines, and you make it a free of charge download, too. You encourage people to torrent it, and the source, and you’ll see more features being added, you’ll see more video formats being supported and you’ll see people doing amazing things with software you created, but only if you act quickly and get this right.
Don’t lose this to Microsoft, for the sake of freedom of computer users everywhere, for the sake of a free web and for the sake of generations of people to come, don’t let Microsoft get away with this.
Sun are doing this with Java, they did it with OpenOffice.org. You can do this as well.
It’s entirely down to you now. If you need help, ask. If you have questions, shout.
Call the Free Software Foundation today, and make this happen.
(+1-617-542-5942)
Do the right thing.
Do it.
Best,
matt
Update: Digg this post.

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7 comments

  1. Andy · September 5, 2007

    LOL, wow, you’re kidding, right? Why in their right minds would they do this? Flash is by far one of the most successful pieces of software ever. Do you really think they are going to make it free just so linux nerds can play with it?
    Anyone who’s played with Silverlight knows that it’s still years away from even having a chance of touching flash. Adobe would just be throwing money away giving away *the entire application* for free. Yes, perhaps they should open source the player. In fact, they probably will. But to give away the editor for free just because some linux nerds want a new toy is a fantasy that will never happen. Get a clue.

  2. Nick · September 5, 2007

    I really don’t think Adobe has much to worry about with Silverlight. The Flash 9 player is already at 90% market penetration, any updates that need to be done to add functionality (H.264, Astro features, etc.) can easily be done via Express Install, and the experience is seamless. Silverlight, on the other hand, does not have that ubiquity yet, and the install is nowhere near as seamless. With it we’re right back to the old days of having to download a new player and install it, closing the browser and reloading it to actually get to use the plugin, and all for content that really doesn’t do anything that can’t be done with Flash. Could Microsoft make an impact on the market, sure, but Adobe has a huge head start with the penetration of the player, which is already on Windows, OS X, and most of the Linux distributions that the majority of desktop Linux users are running.
    Most creatives I know, like myself, have a strong distrust for anything Microsoft, and will avoid it. Their OS, while prolific, is awful, and their browser, even in it’s latest incarnation is laughable in a world of web standards. The content is what drives the technology, and Adobe has the loyalty of the content creators. This gives them another huge advantage.
    It will be interesting to see what happens, but my money is on Adobe.

  3. Eric de Groot · September 5, 2007

    I could see Adobe opening up the Flash player plug-in and setting a standard, and the reasons for it, but definitely not the editors and server software. I think those calls are a bit naive. An open format would allow for competing authoring environments anyway, which would probably serve more.

  4. Paulius Uza · September 5, 2007

    Flash Player 9 current penetration is over 90% of all internet-enabled PCs. By distributing the player as binary Adobe prevents segmentation and increases adoption rate so at this point closed binary is a good thing.
    Adobe has already supplied the Flex 3 SDK and it’s source code free of charge. You can use the SDK + tools of your choice (like the free FlashDevelop 3) for casual development. They have also released Flash Player 9 for Linux which you can get here: http://labs.adobe.com/downloads/flashplayer9.html. Flex 3 Moxie will also be available as an opensource project soon so maybe that will change something for you.
    As for making Creative Suite free – I don’t think that’s ever possible. Vast majority of the Creative Suite users are web / graphics / media professionals and don’t have a problem supporting Adobe. There’s an old saying “A thing is worth exactly what you are willing to pay for it”, and in case of Creative Suite products – the price you pay easily pays off.

  5. Conley · September 5, 2007

    Great letter. You might want to change “Sun are” to “Sun is” though.

  6. Steve · October 3, 2007

    There’s no way they’d GPL the whole toolchain. What they should do, though, is look at an open source player. Remember that they are working on open source compilers – http://labs.adobe.com/wiki/index.php/Flex:Open_Source – making the IDE the bit that you pay for. It seems mad to do that without providing the other side of the equation, or at the very least an open source version, if they want to lock up some patent encumbered element in some way.
    I think the open compiler, closed IDE is fine. Now, if they could just get the prices to be the same in Europe and Australia as in America…

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