While the technologies used on the web have always been mostly free, with non-free technologies delegated to non-essential parts of the net, this has been changing fast, lately. The popularity of YouTube has demonstrated the pervasiveness of Adobe’s Flash, to an extent where not having Flash is one of the big downsides to any alternative operating system. And to possibly make matters worse, Microsoft is pushing its proprietary Silverlight technology. The founder of Mozilla Europe, Tristan Nitot, warns for “the dangers of the proprietary web”.ZDNet.co.uk is reporting that at the Internet World Conference in London, Nitot warned that companies like Adobe and Microsoft might have an agenda with their Flash and Silverlight technologies. Even though at the moment these technologies are free to download, this might change in the future. “But maybe they have an agenda,” Nitot said, “they’re not here for the glory; they’re here for the money.” He also warns for the dangers of these companies withholding products from certain markets. As examples, he mentions Internet Explorer for the Mac/UNIX, and Adobe’s refusal to provide up-to-date binaries of Flash.
[Web developers should make] sure that Silverlight and Flash will always be available on all platforms [and] run decently on all platforms. You’re producing content for your users and there’s someone in the middle deciding whether users should see your content. If Adobe or Microsoft decide to compete with you and you’re using their technology, you cannot compete. If you consider proprietary technologies, think hard; are you really trading convenience in the short term with independence in the long term?”
Nitot continued that you pretty much need Flash these days in order to offer video online, but that this might change in the near future when HTML5 reaches maturity, which will do away with the need for Flash for audio and video content, because audio and video will be part of HTML5. He told ZDNet.co.uk after the presentation that Adobe’s Flash is not compatible with the open web, and that Adobe may open source it if Silverlight’s competition becomes too fierce.