Why do FLOSS advocates like Adobe so much?

I’m not sure how this happens, but I see more and more often FLOSS advocates that support Adobe, and in particular Flash, in almost any context out there, mostly because they are now appearing a lot like an underdog, with Microsoft and Apple picking on them. Rather than liking the idea of cornering Flash as a proprietary software product out of the market, they seem to acclaim any time Adobe gets a little more advantage over the competition, and cry foul when someone else tries to ditch them:

  • Microsoft released Silverlight; which is evil – probably because it’s produced by Microsoft, or in alternative because it uses .NET that is produced by Microsoft – we have a Free as in Speech implementation of it in Novell’s Moonlight; but FLOSS advocates ditch on that: it’s still evil, because there are patents in .NET and C#; please note that the only implementation I know of Flash in the FLOSS world is Gnash which is not exactly up-to-speed with the kind of Flash applets you find in the wild;
  • Apple’s iPhone and iPad (or rather, all the Apple devices based on iPhone OS iOS) don’t support Flash, and Apple pushes content publishers to move to “modern alternatives” starting from the <video> tag; rather than, for once, agreeing with Apple and supporting that idea, FLOSS advocates decide to start name-calling them because they lack support for an ubiquitous technology such as Flash — the fact that Apple’s <video> tag suggestions were tied to the use of H.264 shouldn’t have made any difference at all, since Flash does not support Theora, so with the exclusion of the recently released WebM in the latest 10.1 version of the Flash Player, there wouldn’t be any support for “Free formats”;
  • Adobe stirs up a lot of news declaring support for Android; Google announces Android 2.2 Froyo, supporting Flash; rather than declaring Google an enemy of Free Software for helping Adobe spread their invasive and proprietary technology, FLOSS advocates start issuing “take that” comments toward iPhone users as “their phone can see Flash content”;
  • Mozilla refuses to provide any way at all to view H.264 files directly in their browser, leaving users unable to watch Youtube without Flash unless they do a ton of hacky tricks to convert the content into Ogg/Theora files; FLOSS advocates keep on supporting them because they haven’t compromised;

What is up here? Why should people consider Adobe a good friend of Free Software at all? Maybe because they control formats that are usually considered “free enough”: PostScript, TIFF (yes they do), PDF… or because some of the basic free fonts that TeX implementations and the original X11 used come from them. But all of this doesn’t really sound relevant to me: they don’t provide a Free Software PDF implementation, rather they have their own PDF reader, while the Free implementations often have to run fast towards, with mixed results, to keep opening new PDF files. As much as Mike explains the complexity of it all, the Linux Flash player is far from being a nice piece of software, and their recent abandon of the x86-64 version of the player makes it even more sour.

I’m afraid that the only explanation I can give to this phenomenon is that most “FLOSS advocates” line themselves straight with, and only with, the Free Software Foundation. And the FSF seem to have a very personal war against Microsoft and Apple; probably because the two of them actually show that in many areas Free Software is still lagging behind (and if you don’t agree with this statement, please have a reality check and come back again — and this is not to say that Free Software is not good in many areas, or that it cannot improve to become the best), which goes against their “faith”. Adobe on the other hand, while not really helping Free Software out (sorry but Flash Player and Adobe Reader are not enough to say that they “support” Linux; and don’t try to sell me that they are not porting Creative Suite to Linux just so people would use better Free alternatives).

Why do I feel like taking a shot at FSF here? Well, I have already repeated multiple times that I love the PDFreaders.org site from the FSFe; as far as I can see, FSF only seem to link to it in one lost and forgotten page, just below a note about CoreBoot … doesn’t make it any prominent. Also, I couldn’t find any open letter that blame PDF for being a Patent-risky format, which instead is present in the PDFreaders site:

While Adobe Systems grants a royalty-free use of any patents to the PDF format, in any application that adheres to the PDF specifications, other companies do hold patents that may limit the openness of the standard if enforced.

As you can see, the first part of the sentence admits that there are patents over the PDF format, but royalty-free use is granted… from Adobe at least, but nothing from eventual other parties that might have them.

At any rate, I feel like there is a huge double-standard issue here: anything that comes out of Microsoft or Apple, even with Free Software licenses or patent pledges is evil; but proprietary software and technologies from Adobe are fine. It’s silly, don’t you think so?

And for those who still would like to complain about websites requiring Silverlight to watch content, I’d like to propose a different solution to ask for: don’t ask for them to provide it with Flash, but rather with a standard protocol, for which we have a number of Free Software implementations, as well as being supported on the mainstream operating systems for both Desktops and mobile phones: RTSP is such a protocol.

13 thoughts on “Why do FLOSS advocates like Adobe so much?

  1. WELL SAID… and “their recent abandon of the x86-64 version” mean I’ll not use flash anymore unless www-plugins/lightspark become useable, while 64bit flash is heavy and hungry 32bit flash is totally unusable

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  2. Hm, I have desperately scanned the first paragraph for any links showing these “advocates”, as I’ve never met any (or even heard about them before I saw this article) of them. Do they really exist? If so, it shouldn’t be hard to prove.

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  3. <facepalm>As usual, a completely reasonable and well thought-out argument.Personally, I can’t wait for flash to (finally) go the way of the dodo; but that’s not to say that I prefer Silverlight. I didn’t realise that they’d abandoned the 64-bit version – back to net-misc/youtube-dl for me!h264 is clearly here to stay, and anyone not building support for it cares more about their ideals than their users.

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  4. I was just reading through some posts by Free software supporters who were talking about how bad it is to recommend adobe products because they are proprietary so I’m getting a kick out of this article.Maybe you’re thinking of open source advocates as opposed to free software? Out of the two groups the latter are the ones most likely to outright oppose proprietary software.

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  5. Where have you been reading about them? Because the guy I linked above is definitely a _Free Software_ advocate, as I said, he’s the main lawyer for the Free Software Foundation Europe!And the most recent naming of Adobe in FSF’s website is on the “reply to Steve Jobs “Thoughts on Flash””:http://www.fsf.org/news/fsf… — yet the word “Adobe” only appears in the quoted content from Steve Jobs’s letter; FSF does not even address it.

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  6. I don’t know any FLOSS advocates that like Adobe. Android users aren’t automatically FLOSS advocates; in fact many probably don’t know what FLOSS is.

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  7. Flash has its place and I think most people like it because it opens up a level of interactivity that you just can’t do in an all-browser fashion (yet).No, it doesn’t do it without eating its share of resources and no, it’s not free… But it does a job.I don’t think it’s as simple as separating people out with one label. A “FLOSS advocate” is almost definitely also a “web user” too. For all its faults, Flash is still useful when used in the right place thus most people want it to be available.And from a “web developer”, I’m looking at a situation where a portion of my user base don’t have flash. If I want to do cross-platform video this requires developing two quite separate solutions. Almost twice the effort for the same result. Yippee. I certainly want Flash installed on everything from desktops through to phones and even toasters.

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  8. I don’t see anything replacing Flash games in the near future. RTSP and <video> aren’t an alternative.

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  9. What would interest me more than Flash would be an relatively unbiased review of Adobe Air,as it looks like it may become as big problem as Flash is now.It’s being advertised as cross-platform solution, but smells like a vendor lock-in to me.Flash itself is a problem mainly due to the same reasons Word/Excel are a problem.On a semi-related note: how valid is bug 323837, that is, how big is the license change really ?

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  10. As much as I hate flash, because of its poor amd64 Linux support and numerous security issues, it is the only viable solution for a large number of problems.Despite all the rhetoric from Adobes detractors, none are offering anything better.If you work really hard with html5 and JavaScript you can make a crappy knockoff of what is fairly trivial with flash, and it won’t work for most/many users.If you take into account that things like H264 are heavily patent encumbered why would you even bother.I don’t think this is about any of the issues being Astroturfed, its aboutApple increasing lock-in by forcing people write more native iOS applications.Microsoft taking over control of the flash framework/userbase.A big payday for the MPEG-LA members

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  11. It’s true that Adobe is no true friend of open source.But Microsoft deserves even stronger hatred, suspicion, and contempt from the free software community. They have a long track record of offenses against software developers going back to their criminal theft of the original Mac OS as “Windows 1”, their deliberate sabotaging of Windows for Workgroups to prevent users from switching to Caldera’s free DR-DOS, and many other serious issues (not to mention their bullying of Netscape developers in order to grab the lion’s share of the browser market).Adobe may not play nicely all the time, but Microsoft has been in all-out-war on software freedom for as long as I can remember.So . . . it’s not mere hypocrisy. It’s a desire to see justice against a chronic offender.

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