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An Open Letter to Adobe, Inc.

 

Dear Adobe,

 

I am an avid computer user. Actually, avid is an understatement. I spend an average of 5 hours a day on my computer. Probably around 80% of my time is spent on the internet. That is a lot of time browsing and using the web. Adobe makes one product that I have a love/hate relationship with: Flash. I hate flash because it eats my CPU as if it was candy. My CPU usage goes from about 20% to about 80% as soon as I start watching a YouTube video. I love it because it allows me to play fun games (tower defense, anyone?), watch movies, and a plethora of other time wasters. I hate it because it is only on select devices. I love Flash because it offers a quick and dirty way to make interactive internet content. I hate Flash because it makes my browser crash. I have a proposal to Fix Flash's shortcomings and improve the overall quality of Adobe's Flash Player; to open source the player. This allows for the benefits of open source, namely more stable, faster, less resource intensive code and adoption and porting to nearly every device. Some may claim this will be detrimental to Adobe's business model, but this is not true. In fact, Adobe has the opportunity to thrive on this opportunity.

 

Flash is buggy. It causes my browser to crash at the most inopportune moments. I wrote this in Vim because my browser is just too buggy and unstable to trust. I speak from experience. This is the fourth time writing this letter because of my browser crashing. And it crashes almost exclusively when running Flash. Come on Adobe, use some try-catches or SOMETHING! Now included with every Flash Player download!If you open source the player, you will have thousands of additional developers and beta testers making Flash a much more polished, less buggy application. One of the perceived disadvantages of open source software is that people must be passionate about a piece of software for any good to come of it being open source.If you search for "Apache", an open source web server, on Google, one gets 79,800,000 results. That's a significant amount. Doing a search for "Flash Player" in Google yields 345,000,000 results. That is over four times as many results. People care about and are passionate about Flash. The improvement of Flash would be amazing.

 

Some may claim that this would be detrimental to Adobe's business model. This is not true; in fact, it would be complementary to it. Adobe's current model with Flash is similar to the good old "razor and razor blade" model. Give the razor away for free, and charge an arm and a leg for the razor blade. Applying this model to Adobe, we see that the Player is the razor and the Adobe Flash Professional included in your Creative Suite is the blade. The cheapest version of CS which includes Flash Professional is the Design Premium version. The full version retails for $1,799 USD while upgrades are $599 USD. That ain't cheap. Granted, it includes InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash, Dreamweaver, Fireworks, Acrobat, Adobe Bridge, Adobe Device Central, and Version Cue, but there is really only one product which everyone uses: Photoshop. The rest are pretty specialized. Photoshop has become the de-facto standard for editing images because it is good at what it does. JPEG, PNG, GIF, SVG, etc. are all formats that anyone can use. They are standard, open formats. Image viewers aren't typically defined as "awesome" and "must-have"; Photoshop often times is. There are many competitors out there for Photoshop. But time and time again Photoshop wins. Why? Because it is amazing. Plain and simple. Flash Professional can be this way as well. By letting other developers focus on the razor, you can  make the razor blade amazing.

 

An additional way open sourcing the Player would increase the penetration of Flash is through the integration of Flash into many more devices and operating systems. The iPad, iPhone, Android, and almost any other platform would have Flash integration. Flash would become less of a privatized, one-off solution and become a standardized, popular way to watch movies, play games and other interactive content. With HTML5 coming soon, Adobe's Flash has competition with an open standard, namely the canvas HTML tag. If Adobe does not do something radical, they will likely lose in their footing in this ground. In fact, I would argue that you already have started to lose http://www.canvasdemos.com/. Once HTML5 becomes adopted, Flash will start to die out. If Adobe is able to open source their Flash Player, it will postpone and potentially stop the takeover of HTML5's canvas tag.

 

Adobe will either open source the Flash Player, or it will eventually go the way of the dodo (image of dodo). It's your call, Adobe; it's your call.