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"It's possible for competitors to take interesting bits of your technology and use them in ways that provide an unfair advantage to them. We've seen that happen in some of our own open source efforts, which is why we are very cautious about responses to a single company rather than responses to a community."

McAllister cited Adobe's November of 2006 presented to the Mozilla foundation of the virtual runtime called Tamarin. "The Tamarin effort was mined to produce a JavaScript-specific virtual runtime known as TraceMonkey. TraceMonkey stripped out all the elements for ActionScript, which is the language for Flash, and retained only the JavaScript element, even though the understanding was to produce a unified runtime. Having Mozilla go in and literally take apart the two, it feels a bit of a blindside."

Mike Shaver, vice president of engineering at the Mozilla Corporation, expressed surprise at McAllister's concerns over Tamarin and TraceMonkey. "The nanojit code he's referring to is code that we're continuing to contribute to, we did the first 64-bit port of that over the summer, and we're continuing to work on improvements in concert with Adobe's engineers. We're quite happy with the collaboration, and everything we've heard from Adobe's engineers is that they're happy to see the code used in that way."

Browser comparison

What about fragmentation? One of McAllister's issues is that runtime consistency is more important than open source, and noted open-source projects fragment when corporate interests are allowed to dominate. He contrasted the state of Flash with that of the browser, which has become fragmented.

"You have to test for all the popular browsers, and with Google now adding Chrome there's yet another one. Even though there is a standard for HTML, every browser implements it differently," McAllister said.

Shaver responded to me, saying that Mozilla's is in daily contact with the Adobe engineers working on that layer of the jit (just-in-time compiler). "We're trying stay as close as we can. Certainly we're going to need things in the technology that are not going to be as relevant to Tamarin and vice versa, but we're very happy to be sharing that codebase with them. There's a long history," he said.

"Even before Tamarin, Adobe was using the Mozilla engine, SpiderMonkey, in their products, and that was a great collaboration for both of us. I don't think McAllister's opinion is necessarily representative of Adobe at large or the engineers that are working with us." ®

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