Wednesday, April 25th, 2007

Adobe announces that it will be opening Flex under Mozilla License

Category: Adobe, Announcements

Adobe continues to impress with the direction that it is pushing with open products. Adobe Flex is being open sourced under a Mozilla-style license.

This announcement is more than a “hey, now you can peak at the source code” move. Flex has shipped with source code for quite some time, and some core members of the community have been able to find bugs themselves. Moving to an open source development model now completes the roadmap, allowing for these developers to contribute their skills.

Changing to an open source development model isn’t a trivial task. As such, it will take some time to implement everything that Adobe wants too. Putting a copyright on code is one thing, openings up a bug database and subversion is another. Cultivating the community is the hard part, and Adobe is carefully trying to do this right. I think that they understand that this will only be a true success if a rich community of contributors grows out of this. When talking to them, they often mentioned how the Flex development team will bring in outside developers who will become just as much a part of the product as the Adobe employees. I hope this happens.

A few things are opening up here. The core Flex framework itself, the debugger, the XML compiler, and the components themselves, some of which are used in the Apolo framework.

I hope that this is a success, and prooves to the Adobe boardroom that it should continue in their path to opening up other products within Adobe. Many would like to see a fully open Flash (although there are good reasons not to).

What do you think about this announcement. Do you care about an open Flex? Do you want an open Flash?

Podtech has published a video interview on the topic:

Posted by Dion Almaer at 11:01 pm

4.1 rating from 35 votes


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Actually I have two videos. The second one is more interesting for programmers cause it’s Ely Greenfield, Flex Architect, showing off the Flash Ecosystem and explaining more about what was opensourced here.

Comment by Robert Scoble — April 25, 2007

This is a good move, but currently the only Flex *server* is Adobe’s product, so the real proof will be when another company builds a competing product that uses the Flex XML. ColdFusion the language has also benefited from having multiple processing engines because it brought an increase in adoption.

Comment by Mike Ritchie — April 25, 2007

I’d like them to open-source Flex Builder :D

After all, it’s built on top of Eclipse ;)

Comment by Ian — April 25, 2007

Open Source Photoshop!

Comment by Steven — April 26, 2007

I like it – a lot!

Comment by Matt Raible — April 26, 2007

This is good news. …have been excited about Flex for awhile, and this is added encouragement. Adobe continues to push in the right direction, which is great. Hat’s off. There’s something very motivating as a developer to have the opportunity to contribute to the core of a technology. I somewhat doubt that Adobe would go as far to open source Flash, but it’s an intriguing thought-

Comment by Mark Holton — April 26, 2007

What are these good reasons not to open Flash that you speak of?

Comment by Tim Cooijmans — April 26, 2007

So is this Flex1 or Flex2? Or doesn’t that really matter? Not really sure how excited I should be about this.

Comment by Menno van Slooten — April 26, 2007

It would be nice if Adobe finally will come up with better IDE for a start. Making Flex open for everyone it is a really good move. But IDE improvement i would consider as primary thing to handle.

Comment by Evgenios Skitsanos — April 26, 2007


Comment by test — April 26, 2007

It is the runtime of Flash that has to be open sourced. Whilst this is a step in the right direction and hopefully an indication of a good future direction the main problem with Flash content is its lack of openness.

What made the web great in the first place, and continues to do so is this openness. When I can write a greasemonkey script or user stylesheet to remix Flash content then it will be a really great technology, until then it is just another proprietary format, no matter how open the development tools are.

Comment by Ross Riley — April 26, 2007

This is great news! I’ve been working on some software in flex I intend to release under an open license, and the fact that it was based on a proprietary compiler and library was somewhat of a downer and risk (because ‘they’ could take the toys away).

Comment by Joeri — April 26, 2007

urgh, all flash based tech is inferior until it supports non optional view source functionality and non optional extension points (e.g. the dom with all html/js based tech). The reason that html/js is so powerful and that every other tech is an also ran is the ability of the beginner to examine and learn from the work of the masters.

Comment by Sean O'Donnell — April 26, 2007

The so-called “good reasons” for not open-sourcing Flash are mostly BS, such as:

1) Adobe won’t be able to benefit monetarily or compete effectively if tehir product is open-sourced.

WRONG. Adobe will still be able to make money off of selling Flash CS3+, in the same way that Red Hat still makes money off of selling RHEL: they both are paying for both the branding and the service of using the products (not to mention the subscription model).

2) Competitors will be able to take the source code and create their own versions of Flash to compete against Adobe.

Your point? Oracle took Fedora’s source code (creating Unbreakable Linux) in order to compete against Red Hat. And yet, they still haven’t been able to effectively take on Red Hat in the server market like it was often hinted in the past.

Plus, put it under the GPL to keep the bastards honest (and not pull an MSJava).

So again, there’s no reason to NOT open source Flash (and many good reasons to, considering that Microsoft just released Silverlight)

Comment by Rayne Van-Dunem — April 26, 2007

I have worked with Flash in the past and found it to be surprisingly painful, especially with so much of the creative workflow centered around the Flash studio. It was so obviously a programming paradigm shoved into a movie making/graphics application.

But just this week I started working with Flex 2 and I am blown away by the 180 they’ve taken. It feels like real programming now, and very Ajax like in how things flow. The mix of a XML markup and OO scripting is so natural feeling now…

I am really psyched to get further into this and see what can be done. Now with the source opened up, its only bound to get better.

Comment by Joe Larson — April 26, 2007

Sounds good, programming platforms need to be as open as possible. What’s interesting here is their business model. Adobe is making a massive investment in Flex (look at all those ads!), so they must expect to get large profit margins somewhere.

Sounds like they’re selling 2 things:
– Flexbuilder plugin for Eclipse
– Flex Data Services

I don’t believe they’re going to make that much money with the Eclipse plugin, especially once other competing plugins appear. That means they’re going to make all of their money back by selling the Flex Data Services to large Enterprises. Competing with Java for the backend of Enterprise application development?

Comment by James Brundege — April 26, 2007

@Joe… totally agree with you and felt the same way. The pains with Flash are the reason MM/Adobe came out with Flex… the plugin inside of Eclipse, and code is written in XML (MXML) which gets compiled into a Flash .swf — feels like writing code again.

Comment by Mark Holton — April 26, 2007

Adobe doesn’t really compete with Java… Coldfusion is a J2EE technology, built on top of Java since CFMX 6.1, I believe. Coldfusion compiles to Java byte code and can run on any J2EE compatible application server (IBM WebSphere, BEA WebLogic, et al). CF devs can deploy their code as .EAR or .WAR files, assemble their code with ANT, etc. …some of the clustering and load balancing capabilities CF gives out of the box are very nice if you’re interested in High Availability on an efficient development time cycle (at least in terms of HA with the Application server) — so they may enjoy some migration of Flex users to their server side, but that server side is built on top of Java. cheers-

Comment by Mark Holton — April 26, 2007

What a great news !

I tried Ajax, but I choose Flex : how can you like Javascript ?? Sure, flex requires skills, but javascript too, right ?

Think about it : Productivity Flex

Comment by Jim Richards — April 26, 2007

Adobe looks a bit lost to me, frankly. First, I agree w/Ross Riley’s comment that the really compelling thing here would be to open source Flash. Flex is so 2001, with all the XML and compilers and – just what we really needed – another scripting language!

As far as I can tell (and someone jump in here with specific counterexamples, please) there is nothing that we don’t already have with JavaScript and DHTML/CSS, especially with all the great libraries coming out (ex: Prototype).

Flash on the other hand still fills some gaps in the Ajax app stack and is architecture neutral. I hope this is, in fact, an attempt to test the waters prior to open sourcing Flash. Otherwise, unless you’re already a Flex developer, I doubt it will have much impact.

Comment by Dan Yoder — April 27, 2007

I don’t understand what is the Flex point. ActionScript in the client and Java in the server? Then, if you like browser plugins and hates W3C Standarts, why don’t use Java Applets and make your life easier?

Comment by Tio Malandra — April 27, 2007


Flex is so 2001, with all the XML and compilers and – just what we really needed – another scripting language!

Have you ever used Flex? Compilers aren’t required if the MXML is compiled (at runtime) by the [ColdFusion = “not free”] server. The scripting language, ActionScript 3.0, aka ECMAScript, aka what Javascript 2.0 is likely to resemble, is not “just another scripting language”, unless you’d choose to write off Javascript as well.

As far as I can tell (and someone jump in here with specific counterexamples, please) there is nothing that we don’t already have with JavaScript and DHTML/CSS

Remember that Apollo is essentially “desktop Flex”. I haven’t seen a DHTML/CSS/JavaScript/YUi/Google/etc. able to live outside of the browser. For certain types of applications, the combination of Apollo/Flex is extremely appealing, and gaining broad industry acceptance (through opening up the technologies involved) is certainly in Adobe’s best interests.

Comment by Peter Mularien — April 27, 2007


Thanks for the informative clarification / correction. Apollo is indeed an interesting technology, which I tend to forget about because none of my work has off-line requirements. As to ActionScript, it is partly the naming that throws me here. If it is ultimately “just JavaScript” why give it a special name? Why not support the standard directly? That is part of what being open is about – not just giving away source, but supporting standards. Adobe appears to me to have this proprietary NIH gene, which they need to shed if they want wider acceptance.

Comment by Dan Yoder — April 27, 2007

Javascript is only just another implementation of ECMAScript, so I don’t consider it any more “standard” than actionscript. From a practical point of view, actionscript is pretty much as standardized as an ecmascript implementation is going to get.

The way I see it macromedia has designed flex with a lot of standards in mind. The GUI’s are described in an XML-derivative, they are styled with CSS, and they are scripted with ECMAScript (or rather a variation thereof). Flex also integrates very well with javascript using the flash/javascript bridge. The only thing that’s lacking is deep integration of SVG.

Comment by Joeri — April 30, 2007

If this is true.. It is a good news.

Comment by American Freight — September 11, 2007

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