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Back in 2005

Posted on Feb 14 2010

I was just looking at my emails archives. Actually we installed our IMAP server at Motion-Twin by the end of 2005 so I almost have all my sent/recv mails from this time. More than four years of words, and so much energy (and time) spent while writing them...

November 2005 was also the time that we started a private mailing list with the main people of OSFlash. It was including OSFlash cofounders - Aral and myself - as well as people working on the big projects at this time : John Grden, Chris Allen, Dominick Accattato and Luck Hubbard from Red5, and Edwin van Rijkom from Screenweaver.

We started discussing about a possible OSFlash Manifesto which would act as a foundation for the newborn and growing OSFlash community.

Here was my original take on the Manifesto :

Date: Sun, 27 Nov 2005 12:05:02 +0100
From: Nicolas Cannasse <ncannasse@m.....com>
Subject: [Roundtable] Manifesto RFC

The OSFlash Manifesto
---------------------

Fifteen years ago, there was no Web. Nothing. The WWW protocol was 
invented back in 1990 by CERN scientists in order to share research 
informations. Since then, the web and the whole internet have been 
growing at a tremendous pace, bringing a place to communicate and share 
for users around the world, a place where everybody can talk freely, a 
huge quantity of online services and wealth to a lot of people and 
companies.

What made possible this growth is the openness of Web protocols and file 
formats. Anybody can "speak the web" freely, by sending HTML documents 
using HTTP protocol over a TCP/IP connection. The Web is not owned by a 
particular company, it's a whole ecosystem of mixed open and 
prioprietary tools, all using theses open protocols and file formats.

Flash is a technology that is widely present on the Web. Yet, the number 
of Flash developers is still way beyond the number of web developers. 
There is a reason for that : Flash is a proprietary platform owned by a 
private company named Macromedia (now Adobe).

The OSFlash community is composed of Flash enthousiasts and technology 
savvy people that see an interest in developing Flash further its 
current status. As a community, we have two goals :

One is technical. As most of us are using Flash on a daily basis, we are 
cooperating together in order to create a better set of tools. The tools 
sold by Macromedia cannot always be the perfect fit for any kind of 
usage. As a community, we're helping each other and are trying to find 
the best way to complete a given task.

The other is ethical. We don't want to be "lock-in" into a particular 
proprietary solution. We don't want one part of the Web platform to be 
owned and fully controled by a private company. As a community, we are 
then working at learning the different protocols and file formats needed 
  in order to "talk Flash". We are doing that in a legal way, through 
observation of the existing. And we are then providing the documentation 
and tools released under an Open Source license so that everybody can 
openly build Flash content.

Additionally, we are requesting that Macromedia open further the Flash 
platform, by doing the following :

a) fully document without any licensing restriction the different 
protocols and file formats used by Flash. The OSFlash community is doing 
that, and this will surely bring a whole set of Open Source tools. By 
having an official documentation, Macromedia can create a whole 
ecosystem of other companies that will create other Flash-related tools. 
We think that this will benefit the Flash platform.

b) allow the Flash Player to be embedded and reused without any 
restriction, so that the Flash technology will not only be usable on the 
Web but inside applications, bringing a lot of new people into making 
Flash content. With current Player restriction, the platform is not even 
available of redistribution.

c) facilitate the emergence of third party compatible Flash Players, 
just like Sun did for Java. This will put again the Flash technology far 
beyond its current limits and bring in return more users into Flash.

d) ultimaly, create a consortium representing both companies and users, 
that will openly discuss the evolution of the Flash technology in a 
democratic way.

If Macromedia opens the Flash technology, we can see a future in it. If 
they don't, that will ultimaly be the death of the idea of "Flash as a 
platform". Creating a web proprietary platform, should not and actually 
cannot be done. Any company following this path will fail in doing so.

Following the experience of Democraty and the Web : openness bring 
growth to everybody.

-- EnD --

Nicolas

That was of course a bit bold at this time, but four years later remains quite actual since the situation hasn't changed much since then.

This manifesto was not approved by Aral which had his hands on OSFlash.org so after a few weeks of discussions we didn't reach anything and we were not able to establish OSFlash as a community and to act as one. From there, OSFlash community began splitting among specific projects, from which came very nice pearls such as PaperVision3D, Red5, and my own Haxe.

Today OSFlash is no longer an active united community. There are a few posts on the mailing list but nothing really happening. Maybe things would have gone a different way if we were able to agree on this Manifesto, back in 2005...

3 comments
  • Feb 15, 2010 at 08:11

    Interesting! But, err... You've left the reader hanging.... What was the reasoning behind not approving?

  • Feb 15, 2010 at 16:15

    I think one of the contributing factors at this point, looking back, is the stagnate progress of the player itself (flash). While the competition was gaining ground, Adobe now seems to have been complacent.

    So, in light of that, a united front, and manifesto, may have helped, in some ways, to push / encourage growth from Adobe's side. We might have been able to influence direction and progress if we were a united voice.

    Who knows at this point really, but it certainly is good to reflect and learn from.

    @Sakri, we couldn't agree on the verbiage of the manifesto. Aral had a much different take on what Open Source Flash should/shouldn't be than Nicolas, and collectively, we resubmitted revised versions, but it didn't satisfy either Nicolas or Aral. I think Aral was against it altogether while Nicolas was very passionate about moving in the manifesto's direction. I was on the fence about it at the time. I wasn't a hard-core OS person, but I loved what was happening at the time and wanted to impact the world of Flash and its direction.

    also interesting to note: at the time, Red5 (me, chris, luke pirmarily) and Screenweaver( edwin ) were under pressure from Macromedia with legal overtones being tossed as us left and right. They were trying to intimidate us. We even had Mike Chambers tell Edwin that his application for distributing the Flash player was denied and that he was going to have to stop working on Screenweaver. Red5 was under pressure because of RTMP obviously. So at the time, we were already dealing pressure and being fairly at odds with Macromedia. I personally didn't feel tossing in a manifesto at the time on top of it all, but I could see *why* we needed it - very clearly.

    In the end, we let it go, and just kept going with our projects. Adobe bought Macromedia, Red5 had company with wowza and other for-profit versions and RTMP is now open. But the OS Flash community isn't really doing much at all, other than a few of those projects still thriving today.

    Although, Papervision3D would be a great example of how the OSFlash community has gone. It's progress is completely affected by the lack of progress on the actual flash player. I think at this point, many people don't see the need to produce tools/libraries for it anymore. Sad, but true.

  • Feb 16, 2010 at 00:53

    Nicolas, thanks for posting this! I do remember how hard we worked to come up with a manifesto, and to create a united front for Open Source development of the Flash platform. Since then Adobe has taken ownership of Flash, and they've done some things to open the platform. I think they could do more of course, but I'm liking the general direction with projects like Flex becoming OSS, and the AS3 engine Tamarin being a complete OSS implementation. I do however miss the community aspect we had at the time, and would be amazing to revitalize it! Let's see if we can get that going again!

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