Announced on Ryan Stewart's blog and the Adobe Pressroom this morning is Adobe Open Screen: an initiative that involves not only releasing the SWF, FLV and FLV4 file format specifications, but also removes licensing restrictions around the next version of the AIR and Flash player.
The initiative's focus is on providing consistent experiences across all of the many platforms Flash content plays on, and expanding the number of flash-enabled platforms that exist. To help in this, Adobe has partnered with a plethora of big companies whose roster reads like a "who's who" of the gadget world (Intel, Motorola, LG, Nokia, Toshiba, Samsung, Sony Ericson, MTV, NBC etc.)
With Open Screen Adobe is also launching an open source porting project to port the Flash player to new devices. This is particularly exciting in the mobile space, where certain carriers haven't wanted to put the Flash Lite Player on their devices despite popular demand from the community. That's right, iPhone - you're on notice.
Open Screen doesn't actually make SWF or FLV open source - it just makes the file format specifications open, and launches a community-driven porting initiative. While many developers would probably like to see the player go completely open, it's going to be great to finally look inside and see what makes SWF tick. Adobe has also always been pretty good about incorporating developer enhancements of their products, meaning if someone does find a good way to improve the SWF format, and I'm sure we will, Adobe will listen.
Adobe's decision comes at a timely moment when competition around plugin-based rich internet content is really heating up. By going open source, Adobe hopes to rally the developer community around support for their format to compete with Microsoft, whose rich content formats are all still proprietary and, knowing Microsoft, will probably stay that way forever.
Open Screen is great news for us developers, especially those of us who struggle to squeeze every last bit of performance out of the SWF format. I have some thoughts on where I'd like to see this go in the future (hint: it involves opening the Flash Player itself) but for now let's not dampen the mood with any of that criticism. Hooray for the new Open-SWF!