Open letter to Adobe

Dear Adobe,

You are the developers of the successful Flash plug-in. Your plug-in is successful in the sense that it’s almost impossible to browse the web without having your plug-in installed. Flash is widely used for movie clips, web radio, informative animations, navigation menus, stock graphs, ad banners and many more. Some sites are even written completely in Flash.

For that reason, I have been using Flash for many years on my computer systems. First I used it on Windows and later on Linux, which I strongly prefer now. In all those years, I have had many problems with your plug-in.

When I was using Flash (I think it was version 4) on Windows 98 on my trusty Pentium II 350 Mhz, full screen Flash sites would make my computer very unresponsive. It also happend to me and also to a friend that different Flash versions were installed together, probably one we downloaded from Macromedia’s site and another older version which was included in some software, probably Microsoft Encarta. Because of these conflicting versions, we had Flash immediately crashing our browser when visiting certain web sites.

Then when I moved to Linux, there were times that I could not visit certain web sites because they required a newer Flash version which was not yet available for my OS. I also could not use my distribution’s package manager to install your software, because you did not permit others to include your software in my distro’s online repositories.

A few years later, I built a new machine with an AMD Athlon 64 3500+ processor. I installed a 64 bit Linux distribution, but there was no 64 bit Flash plug-in. I contacted your company Macromedia, creator of the Flash plug-in, to request a 64 bits versions of the plug-in, but I did not receive any positive answer, in spite of many other people requesting the same thing. Fortunately, the number of sites which were totally unusable without Flash, were not that high, so I accepted to live without your plug-in. One more year later, nspluginwrapper was born, and finally made it possible to view Flash animations on my 64 bits machine again.

In 2007, I started using an Apple PowerPC machine at work. Because Linux was (and currently is) still my preferred OS, I installed Debian GNU/Linux on this machine. But again, no Flash plug-in was available for this system.

We are now May 2009. Many new Flash versions were released in all those years, and finally you started developping a plug-in for the x86_64 architecture. However, things are not much better yet. When I try to view a Flash animation with your 64 bit development version of the plug-in, my browser often crashes hard. If I try to use your 32 bit plug-in with nspluginwrapper, the plug-in itself is not very stable: often when switching tabs in my browser, Flash animations suddenly die and streaming video clips on some Belgian websites do not work at all: the video applet just shows it is buffering, but the video never comes up. The same thing works fine another machine I own. Maybe your plug-in does not work well together with the NVidia drivers, another piece of proprietary sofware I need on this system? Or maybe your plug-in needs some extra libraries which are missing on this system? Unfortunately, I could not find a complete requirement list for your plug-in. The requirements on your download page are very general; only in a blog posting I found that I also need Curl, but I do have libcurl4 installed in both 32 and 64 bit versions on my Mandriva system.

Today, I can only conclude that I’m fed up with this situation. In all those years, I have had lots of problems with your plug-in and with every new version, new problems were introduced. Not only does your plug-in have many problems, the use of Flash is preventing universal access to information for everyone, no matter what kind of system, OS or browser they use. I uninstalled your plug-in today on this system, and I will continue my quest against your software in full force. I will actively search for non-Flash web sites and promote these as alternatives to Flash based web sites. I will also actively promote alternatives to your technology. Good web sites should be based around real open standard file formats, which Flash most definitely is not.

I hope you, Adobe, will finally see the light some day, and start publishing a really complete specification of your proprietary format under a totally Free license and that you will actively support and promote Free Software implementations. However, until then, I see no other option than boycotting your software.

With kind regards,

Frederik Himpe

Futher reading:

File format war

At work, I’m currently helping out with a report. In our department, there is a mix of different OSes en office suites, mainly Mac OS X (MS Office 2008), Windows (Office 2003) and Linux ( 2.4 and 3.0). Because of this, I very often get involved in the office file format mess these days.

Mac and Windows users never have heard of things like open standards and They use whatever is used by default by their MS Office suite, which generally gives either proprietary doc files or docx files which are in practice almost as proprietary as doc (office 2008 docx definitely is not OpenXML!). While doc is pretty universal, docx is much more problematic, because it makes MS Office 20O3 users on Windows complain (of course they have never heard of the docx plug-in for Office 2003), and also does not know this file format perfectly yet (although it’s already good and very usable).

Microsoft admitted that OpenXML has lost the standard war. Unfortunately, I have the feeling that proprietary docx has won. The number of times I have received an OpenDocument file can be counted on one hand, but I see fairly often docx files passing here…

Anyway, I’m happy with it can open all of the involved file formats, and can save in a format which everyone can read (which is unfortunately MS Office 2000/XP/2003 DOC/XLS/PPT formats). Now I should go find a way to get a bit more generally known on the department…