In a move expected to garner applause from web developers and skepticism from analysts, Adobe announced they will release portions of the next version of the Flex SDK under the Mozilla Public License (MPL).Having donated the source code for the Flash ActionScript Virtual Machine to the Mozilla Foundation (previously covered here ), Adobe will continue its charitable thread, releasing parts of the upcoming Flex SDK to the open source community. The source code is already available; Adobe will add daily builds of this "Alpha" version of Flex. They will eventually also avail their bug tracker to the public.
It is important to note that there are no plans to open source the Flex Builder, the primary source of revenue from the Flex SDK. Furthermore, there is little information about how contributions to the code base will be governed.
In the immediate future, code changes will only be accepted from Adobe employees. More information on this will be available in the second half of 2007.
What's the motivation behind this move?
While this decision may apparently have been made for the good of standards-based web application development, this may also be an attempt to differentiate Adobe Flex from the upcoming release of Microsoft's Silverlight product. (Even huge software companies who have built their reputation on closed formats and closed source software development can change their ways and embrace open source.) By aligning themselves with the open source community, Adobe may be hoping to recruit reinforcements in the battle for rich internet application development.
Opinions about Adobe's open source transition have been overwhelmingly positive. John Newton, CTO of Alfresco, says:
"Open source has been pivotal to the rapid growth of Alfresco, and it's great to see Adobe take a similar approach to Flex technology. We've been very interested in using the Flex SDK to put a more usable and engaging face on enterprise content management, and this move by Adobe makes that all the more attractive."
Meanwhile, founder James Governor of open source analyst firm RedMonk released the following in a statement:
"Open source co-creation is a powerful way to build a strong development community. Adobe's decision to open source the Flex SDK is a radical move that should attract a new class of developer to the platform."
Releasing parts of the Flex SDK is a first step toward making Flex a standard for rich internet application development, but some open source advocates were hoping for a commitment more along the lines of MySQL or JBoss. With the Flash media player toted as the brass ring of would-be open source apps, a question remains: is this move an indicator of things to come? Take a look at Adobe Flex: Open Source here.