Macromedia to free Flash
Web graphics technology to go open source (ish)
Web graphics specialist Macromedia is to freely licence its Flash Player's source code, but it's not yet clear whether the move will embrace the open sourcer movement. Macromedia bought Flash technology a few years ago and has been promoting it as a de facto standard for animated vector graphics on the Web ever since, with some success. However, Macromedia's chief competitor, Adobe, has been working its own Web vector graphics format, Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG), and by working with the W3C, IBM, Sun and Microsoft, has ensured that SVG is likely to become the official standard for XML vector graphics. And being XML-based, SVG graphics can be code straight onto the page -- you don't need to download binaries as you do with Flash. As Web sites move from HTML to XML, that's going to favour SVG over Flash, unless Macromedia can widen its usage, and that's what the free licensing is all about -- and, indeed, its attempts to persuade us that every Web user and their dog has downloaded Flash Player. The company's plan appears to follow Sun's approach with Java. Anyone who wants to support Flash in their software or hardware will be granted free access to the source code. To what extent the licence terms will permit developers to modify the code and post their own Flash Players, as they would under a true open source licensing programme, remains to be seen. The terms will be released when Macromedia ships the Flash SDK "later this year" -- probably in the summer, when the next version is due. ®
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