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Adobe Opens the FLV and SWF Formats 262

Wolfcat writes to tell us that Adobe announced today that they are opening the SWF and FLV formats via the Open Screen Project. "The Open Screen Project is supported by technology leaders, including Adobe, ARM, Chunghwa Telecom, Cisco, Intel, LG Electronics Inc., Marvell, Motorola, Nokia, NTT DoCoMo, Qualcomm, Samsung Electronics Co., Sony Ericsson, Toshiba and Verizon Wireless, and leading content providers, including BBC, MTV Networks, and NBC Universal, who want to deliver rich Web and video experiences, live and on-demand across a variety of devices. The Open Screen Project is working to enable a consistent runtime environment — taking advantage of Adobe Flash Player and, in the future, Adobe AIR — that will remove barriers for developers and designers as they publish content and applications across desktops and consumer devices, including phones, mobile internet devices (MIDs), and set top boxes."
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Adobe Opens the FLV and SWF Formats

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  • Great (Score:4, Informative)

    by suso ( 153703 ) * on Thursday May 01, 2008 @07:23AM (#23261424) Homepage Journal
    This problem doesn't mean opening the code for the player, but still, it will help projects like Gnash, etc.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by BinaryOne ( 697044 )
      This is good news.

      For those of use who use flash (for instructional simulations) this means (hopefully) new tools and a chance to deal with the accessibility issues flash has.

      While AS3 has improved accessibility classes, products like Articulate and Camtasia have been slow to enable them in their products.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      Yes, it will help a lot. Using the Open Screen Project page, I just discovered a link to the SWF file format specification, version 9 [] is available for download without having to accept any NDA []'s.
      • by LO0G ( 606364 )
        Yes you can download the spec for SWF, but nowhere in the spec did it discuss terms of use.

        If I implement to their spec, are they going to sue me because of the patents that cover the SWF technology? They say it is available as an "open specification", but there's nothing that says if there are any restrictions on my use of the specification.

        Do they have a covenant not to sue like the one that Sun has [], the one that IBM has [] or even the one that Microsoft has []?
        • That's the whole point of today's announcement. They've removed the restrictions.

          You can make swf-creation tools.
          You can make swf-playback tools (this was what wasn't allowed before)
          And you can make swf related stuff not even thought of yet.
          • by LO0G ( 606364 )
            Then I just wonder why Sun, IBM and Microsoft feel it's appropriate to issue a binding commitment not to sue people who use their specifiations, but Adobe doesn't.

            How do you know that Adobe isn't going to sue you over violating their patents if you implement the specification?

            I keep on hearing on /. that you can't trust closed source vendors not to sue over hidden patents, why does Adobe get a free pass here?
            • Then I just wonder why Sun, IBM and Microsoft feel it's appropriate to issue a binding commitment not to sue people who use their specifiations, but Adobe doesn't.

              Shennanigans. Smoke, mirrors, and waving hands. Just having a "commitment" doesn't mean much. Critics have charged that Sun, IBM, and Microsoft's covenants are not equal. The devil's in the details. And a big detail in the whole scheme of things is that these covenants are used as much for publicity and marketing games as actual commitments.

              Having said that - the general concern is definitely a valid one. We've seen how the game is played these days. Lifting the restriction to a port of call means ve

    • Since Gnash is a GNU high-priority project, this is a big boost. It will be nice to run an absolutely stable, crash-free Firefox once Gnash is complete.
    • by MoogMan ( 442253 )
      After a cursory glance, the [swf] specifications look pretty complete - they even give a sample "dissection" of a flash file, as well as a nice index of "opcodes" (tags) - should indeed be useful to the Gnash project.

      The swf specifications do not seem to document ActionScript, however so it's not easy riding for the Gnash team (Gnash's ActionScript todo list [])

      I wonder if this document will give raise to any security vulnerabilities?
  • by sucker_muts ( 776572 ) <> on Thursday May 01, 2008 @07:27AM (#23261446) Homepage Journal
    I guess Adobe is doing this to try to stop silverlight getting too much attention.

    Since Microsoft seems to want a new way of control of new web enabled devices with silverlight, I guess this is a good thing.
    (And obviously this way gnash can implement better compatibility more easily!)
    • I don't think Silverlight scares Adobe all that much. Microsoft has a habit of railroading themselves into their microplatforms (IIS, ASP, .NET, etc)

      But Apple likes to lock down their platforms and control them. The iPhone is a good example. And mobile is the future for many things. So by doing this, it will be hard for Apple (or anyone else) to keep Flash from being in it's future.

    • by Ilgaz ( 86384 ) *
      Check [] . An application dates back to MacOS 9 days. Matt Giger, single author of it upgraded to version 3 and it runs on both Windows and OS X without a single glitch. It was originally a C application, it was converted to Adobe AIR and the day Linux has a stable Adobe AIR (soon I think), it is also automatically shipped to Linux/FreeBSD.

      That is the opportunity Sun missed with their Webstart/Java. People and industry looks at results, not promises. You can ship a full feature co
      • Check [] . An application dates back to MacOS 9 days. Matt Giger, single author of it upgraded to version 3 and it runs on both Windows and OS X without a single glitch. It was originally a C application, it was converted to Adobe AIR and the day Linux has a stable Adobe AIR (soon I think), it is also automatically shipped to Linux/FreeBSD.

        I would, but their website requires Javascript. Is this some kind of joke? What year is this?

        Maybe you could just tell those of us who won't visit them what it is.

        Their webmaster is an idiot, by the way, because the javascript required page went into an endless loading loop. Just what he needs, everyone who visits his page to generate a bunch of spurious page loads that won't produce any revenue.

        • by Ilgaz ( 86384 ) *
          Well, it seems everyone including Apple co-founder happily browsed that site and purchased their updates.

          Anti Javascript etc. are so 90s if you ask me. Profile of your userbase matters. If you code an entire Application in Flash/Flex, you don't really CARE about bunch of lifeless idiots who tries to be different by turning off javascript on a legit site.

          Turning off Javascript like things are basically non existent on OS X community and the Windows profile that kind of application serves to. Also, you would
          • I don't think you are being fair. It is only prudent to click on a random Slashdot link using NoScript.

            When you do so on that site, instead of just telling you to enable javascript, it redirects you to a "no javascript" page. This is a bad thing, because now even when I turn on javascript the page still tells me I need javascript.

            I love javascript and use it in my sites, but I never assume that someone has it, and if I create something that really does need it... well, a recoverable error message is the onl
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Tumbleweed ( 3706 ) *
          I would, but their website requires Javascript. Is this some kind of joke? What year is this?

          My friend, it seems YOU are the one confused about the year. The year is something like 10 years PAST the time you should be running with JavaScript off. Welcome to the new world, one full of interesting and (potentially) useful things like AJAX. It's time to put the Gopher client out of its misery, upgrade the 19.2kbps ZyXel modem you got at a discount for running a part-time BBS, and for God's sake, stop listening
  • this is not the same as open sourcing it.

    i would guess this is more like attempting to gain market share at the same time as holding the family jewels close to the chest as it were.

    still, its a step in the right direction to be sure.
  • Does this mean we'll see a 64 bit flash plugin for Firefox?
  • by stsp ( 979375 )
    Does anyone know whether "SWF and FLV/F4V specification", " Flash Cast" and "AMF" (all mentioned in the FAQ) include RTMP in some way? In other words, will these specs help us watch south park with free software?
    • In other words, will these specs help us watch south park with free software?

      I assume you have a free OS. Point firefox (MPL or GPL or LGPL) to Download the .avi torrent with rtorrent (GPL), and play it with mplayer (GPL). I mean, I've heard from a friend that this works. I've never done it myself.

      You can already watch South Park using no non-free software. Do you expect the release to let you use even less non-free software? ;)

      (that would make good material for a "Richard Stallman facts").

      • by stsp ( 979375 )
        I know there are other ways to get south park episodes, but I was specifically referring to the streams at [] There is possibly more content out there streamed via RTMP, which (I think) is currently inaccessible to software other than Adobe's Flash, right?
  • I guess there taking the meaning from Open from OpenVMS...
    • "Open" does not repeat not mean what the OSI wants it to mean. Sorry. "Open" had a meaning in computing before the OSI was a twinkle in Bruce's eye, and that was that it encouraged interoperability, usually simply by publishing standards but sometimes just by having a well-published API and terms that encourage you to use it. As such, it's more like the meaning of Open from SCO Open Desktop, which was "Open" because it was based on POSIX and Motif. (This is before the truly evil SCO, when it was merely the
  • by acb ( 2797 ) on Thursday May 01, 2008 @08:17AM (#23261722) Homepage
    IIRC, Macromedia's original rationale for keeping the formats secret was to prevent a certain unnamed competitor from embracing and extending them. Presumably they're counting on Microsoft being so committed to Silverlight that they're not going to turn on a dime, ditch their system (which their people believe, with some justification, to be technically superior) and replace it with a bastardisation of Flash.
    • I was just going to comment on this. Adobe is sticking it to silverlight.

      bwahahahaha, now MS will never gain market share with it.
      • bwahahahaha, now MS will never gain market share with it.

        Yeah right. This is frickin' Microsoft you're talking about. They can cut deals to get Silverlight as the platform for content people want to see. They can push Silverlight installs as part of their OS. (They also can, and have, produced a platform that's way more accessible to developers than Flash, though how much that matters is debatable.)

        Microsoft may not gain market share on merit, and they may not gain market share clean, but I wouldn't bet
    • by Touvan ( 868256 )
      To add to that, there also seems to be a lot more resistance to Microsoft attempts to embrace and extend, most of us having lived through the stagnant IE6 for far too long - and the java thing, etc. We all know what they are about, and are skeptical of anything that looks like that strategy (this includes their recent renewed interest in IE and standards, which is all about the mobile market to compete with iPhone and WebKit - we'll see how long they keep up their standards push).

      Case in point - MS recently
  • More details (Score:5, Informative)

    by jaaron ( 551839 ) on Thursday May 01, 2008 @09:05AM (#23262086) Homepage

    If you didn't bother to RTFA, here are a few more pertinent details. The specific actions Adobe will take include:

    • Removing restrictions on use of the SWF and FLV/F4V specifications
    • Publishing the device porting layer APIs for Adobe Flash Player
    • Publishing the Adobe Flash Cast protocol and the AMF protocol for robust data services
    • Removing licensing fees - making next major releases of Adobe Flash Player and Adobe AIR for devices free

    This is huge in that it means we can finally start porting the Flash runtime to other platforms. It's not yet completely open source, but I'm encouraged by the steps Adobe is taking. They're at least moving in the right direction.

    • Re:More details (Score:4, Informative)

      by nickull ( 943338 ) on Thursday May 01, 2008 @10:38AM (#23263056) Homepage Journal
      Thank you. I work for Adobe and have been involved in more open source and open standards stuff including PDF going to ISO, The core Flash runtime VM (Tamarin) going open source to SourceForge, the Flex Compiler going open source and the data services component going open source and free (BlaseDS). Adobe really is listening to groups like Slashdot and from now on, anyone who thinks they can write a leaner Flash Player can go ahead and do it.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by delt0r ( 999393 )
        So then can you clear up the IP issues with On2 VP6 and mpeg codecs that are used in the players? Does "free" mean that we all have a unrecoverable license to use these codecs (that means all the patents that are claimed over these codecs as well) with flash? Or does free just mean Adobe part of the license fees are waived?

        Example: can I use flash (mpeg/VP6) as the movie format without paying license fees in a commercial video game? Note that no GPL code could be used of course.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ystar ( 898731 )
        The mere idea of higher ups at a previously assumed Big Evil Company paying attention to discussions on Slashdot (with critiques here often ruthless, multifaceted, and heavily biased towards consumer interests) is pretty shocking, and heartening.

        If this signals a major shift in Adobe's operating culture, I think it's cause for celebration.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by delt0r ( 999393 )
      As I have asked elsewhere (without reply) what about patents, and codecs. The format is all nice and stuff but IIRC flash uses the VP6 & VP7 codecs from On2. On2 is not really all that open with its IP as the ffmpeg group found out (IIRC). Its like having a open avi format but you still have to pay for the codecs that we use.

      Adobe IMO has a good reputation (ps and pdf). But there nothing about this i can find on the website. I really would like some more information about the IP issues. Without a clea
  • So does this mean that Firefox will stop crashing about half the time when I close a window with a flash video?
  • The EULA for the Flash player claims to forbid you from making your own implementation []. This means that the Gnash project can't accept help from anyone who has installed Adobe's plugin. Whether click-through licences are legally binding is questionable, but in the end it doesn't matter whether they are binding or not, just whether they give an opportunity for lawyers to tie you up in long court cases, which is probably true.

    Will Adobe be granting permission to work on Flash implementations to those who ha
  • Title sums it up really. What about the fact that FLV is a container format and not a codec. Do we still get sued by On2 when we use VP6? What about the licenses requirements with the mpeg codecs. Without these codec how useful is a flash player because at least youtube won't work.
    • Whoa, you've posted the same question three times in this thread. Relax a little.

      In the absence of any guidance from Adobe, we have to assume that player developers will have to pay license fees to On2 and MPEG LA.
      • by delt0r ( 999393 )
        You never know with modding. I have decided its a random process, so i guess its my lucky day if i cared about karma that is (was expecting a redundant somewhere at least).

        The reason is that this directly affects me. I am currently developing a game and need a codec/container for cut scenes. But the licensing on things like mpeg4 are crazy. Bink is not so bad but still expensive. I'm keeping an eye on Theora, but both stability and performance are not quite there yet. So for the last 2 weeks I have been
  • PLEASE oh PLEASE oh PLEASE let the next Flash plugin incorporate 100% of the work you already put in to your now-dead [] SVG plugin! Making graphics out of thin air--nothing but an XML file with some basic info and a few (X,Y) coordinates--is SO sweet! C'mon Adobe, you used to* love SVG []... right up until the day you bought Macromedia.

    * note the dated references on that page to CS2
  • I hate flash - not th ersults - I basically don't care about the results, per se, but using flash is one of the most irritating, counter-intuitive, fucked up experiences in software.

    Perhaps with SWF and FLV opened up, someone can construct an alternative to flash that's actually easy to use.


    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by snuf23 ( 182335 )
      Well that's what happens when you take an application designed for making non-interactive 2D animations and turn it into a development platform.

Thufir's a Harkonnen now.