Thoughts about Open, Closed, and Hypocrisy

April 29, 2010 at 8:56 pm Leave a comment

The following thoughts are my response to John Mason’s recent post Is Mike Chambers a hypocrite?Well, It’s not really a direct response to John’s arguments.  I enjoyed reading what he wrote, as it is nice to see unbiassed and fresh opinions out there.  There are too many fan boys with an axe to grind.  John’s post got me thinking about some issues.  So it was my catalyst for the following stream of loosely related consciousness:-

For years, Flash was the only serious choice for rich media experience on the internet.  The success of Flash can be attributed to innovation.

I’ve never seen open-development innovate and popularise anything really new and different.  This is why I prefer closed, proprietary, patented, and commercially driven technologies.  I’m no tree-hugging free and open idealist.  I’ve never seen the open approach plant the seed of innovation.  The open approach is only successful when the paradigm had already been defined by (closed architecture) commercially driven innovation pushing the envelope and creating the future.

But if Adobe had innovated faster – there would be more to distinguish Flash from the alternatives now.  I’ve also felt held-back waiting years for features in AIR or the flash player.  Perhaps they were resting on their laurels.  The survival of Flash could depend on more aggressive innovation from Adobe in the years to come.  I think a revision of their culture, vision, and technical leadership could be on the cards.

For Adobe, the shortest distance between two points isn’t a straight line.  It’s not a path ascending the pinnacle of engineering elegance and excellence.

This is something about Adobe’s commercial approach that I DON’T like.

More often than not, their path is dictated by the maximum incentive to pay to upgrade to the next version.  So we took some detours and got stuck in some cul-de-sacs. ActionScript-2.  The Bloated Flex Halo Framework.  The Advanced Data Grid.

The poor performance of the Flash player on the Mac platform hasn’t won Adobe many Mac allies in the current conflict.  (I’m not talking specifically about Video performance – let’s not hear the excuses).  To be truly ubiquitous – the performance has to be comparable across all platforms – otherwise you need to engineer your application to the slowest platform, wasting any speed advantages on the faster platform.

What I consider hypocritical about Adobe’s claims to openness is that Flash platform development is not a level playing field.

It appears to be dominated by a clique of best buddies in San Francisco.  I’ve been involved in Flash platform programming for a decade.  A pioneer of RIAs.  Yet always outside the inner sanctum.

My biggest gripe about Adobe’s openness is that Adobe builds applications that compete with the developers who buy their products.  It’s a peculiar relationship that Adobe has with its customers.  On the one hand, we buy their tools, on the other hand, we compete with their developers and their applications.

While it’s unlikely that Adobe will reject your AIR application from the marketplace – but you may find yourself in a situation where you put a lot of time into a project, only to get into a situation where Adobe will throw a lot of money, development effort, and publicity into a competing product.

I found myself in this predicament with e2publish.  When I first started developing e2publish, Adobe announced their alliance and funding, (and later acquisition) of the BuzzWord project.

Maybe I’m biassed, but I always thought that e2publish, with its clever text wrapping and potential for publishing to be a much more interesting project than BuzzWord.  Certainly more ambitious.  Just think about what I could have achieved with BuzzWord’s development budget.  Nevertheless, I didn’t like the odds of going up against Goliath – so I abandoned e2publish for a couple of years.  It’s still an unfunded prototype with a lot of potential.

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Entry filed under: e2publish, Flex sucks. Tags: .

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