by Judith Dinowitz
Today two members of the Flex team (Matt Chotin and Ely Greenfield) spoke to the Adobe User Group managers and Community Experts about the decision to make the Flex SDK open source. Matt and Ely made it clear that this decision was not because of Microsoft Silverlight, but that Adobe has been heading in this direction for a long time. They pointed to steps that Adobe has taken prior to this announcement to make their products more open, such as the introduction of Adobe Labs and public alpha testing, making the Flex SDK free, including the source with the SDK, Adobe's work with Mozilla on Tamarin, an open source project, and the use of Webkit in Apollo. With Flex 2 taking off and the building interest in Apollo, this seemed like the best time to make Flex open source.
The MXMLPC, COMPC and the ActionScript 3 Compiler, the Flex Command Line Debugger (FDB), the Flex Framework, and the libraries that come with the Flex SDK, will all be open source.
The following tools will be open source: the View Source utilities, web tier compiler modules, automated testing framework (the core infrastructure and component extensions, not the utilities that Adobe charges for).
The following libraries will be open source: the Flex core components, the Flex apollo components, graphics tag libraries, RPC libraries (SOAP, HTTP, Client remoting), FABridge and the SDK automated test engine (Mustella).
The following will not be open source: Flex Builder, the Charting Engine, the Flash Player, Apollo, and any pieces that rely on 3rd party libraries, like Flashtype.
The following, while closed source, will be included in the SDK distribution: Binaries, Saffron/FlashType Library, Core Player API Definitions, Core Apollo API Definitions.
Flex will be under the Mozilla Public License.
Matt and Ely said that the reason for going open source with Flex has to do with community involvement. They said that Adobe wants to build on the adoption they've been seeing with Flex 2, improve community involvement and Adobe's responsiveness, and remove the non-technical barriers to adoption. They emphasized the fact that while they have seen a rise in adoption of Flex, they want to drive this adoption even further. As one of the presenters said,
Flex runs into some barriers from people who really just think the technology they use should only be open source. Since we were free anyway, moving to open source will remove that barrier and increase adoption.
Phase 1: Welcome Active Contribution
In the first phase, Adobe will grant public access to the SDK source. The source will be moved to a public repository, hosted by Adobe. Adobe will also try to put it through respected open source hosts, such as Sourceforge or perhaps RIAForge. However, the main distribution will be through Adobe, and they are not yet sure of the domain. The general public will have read-only access to the latest source.
In this phase, anyone will be able to contribute to the Flex SDK, provided they meet the following requirements:
They said that the public bugbase should be out in a little over a month.
Phase II: Deeper Community Involvement
In the second phase, Adobe will consider sub projects, which must be:
They will be distributed alongside the Flex SDK.
Adobe will also consider external committers for the core SDK project. Acceptance to the core SDK will be based on activity level, dedication and alignment with the Flex SDK philosophy.
Some Time in June:
In the Second Half of 2007
Flex 3 and 4 will both support the current Flash Player 9.
In response to questions, the presenters reiterated that the primary reason to go open source with Flex was that it allows Adobe to be much more active and interactive with the community. While they do expect to get a non-trivial number of patches from the community, that's not why they made the decision. They said that there will be a sizable portion of the community who will want to contribute patches and submit modifications for the main codebase, and with the product being open source, these people will probably be more willing to play with the project. Even before the product is open source, some time in June, Adobe will be posting nightly builds.
With Flex going open source, what of those people who will want to sell Flex components? The presenters stressed that if you're planning something, the best thing to do is to let Adobe know what you're planning. "We're still working out how the process will work," they said, and asked for the community's feedback. They have set up an open source Flex list on Google groups, and encourage community members to use that mailing list.
But what of competition to Flex Builder, which this move is likely to encourage? The presenters said,
This will encourage third party authoring tools. If there becomes a thriving marketplace for third party authoring tools, we think that's great for the community and great for us.