Today, Adobe announced that they have donated the ActionScript Virtual Machine code to the Mozilla foundation. The Mozilla foundation, if you aren't already familiar, manages several open-source code projects. The most famous are Firefox (web browser), and Thunderbird (email app). The ActionScript code that Adobe has now reelased as open source is not the Flash Player itself, nor does this mean that the Flash player is automatically embedded within the Firefox browser. What it does mean is that development of ActionScript and apps that are based on it will most likely increase dramatically, pushing technology forward. In addition, performance running such apps will be greatly improved. While Adobe released the 135,000 lines of code today (135 KLOC, or 135 "Thousand Lines Of Code" in geek terms), the first version of Firefox to ship with this code probably won't appear until 2008. You can find more information about the Tamarin project here.
You might ask what this means for us, and an easy answer would be that over the next few years, this will enable the development of a higher level of internet apps and what some folks refer to as Web 2.0 development. To me, this is nothing new, as such developments happen all the time, pushing technology further. I see something bigger though. We all know that over the years, Adobe has been very protective of their technology -- which they have every right to do. But since the Macromedia merger, it appears that Adobe has been taking a step in the direction of finally "getting" what the Internet is and what it can do. First, Adobe opened its doors just a crack to let a few rays of light out by releasing public betas. While the concept was started with Macromedia, Adobe could have shut it down -- but they didn't. Now, Adobe contributes code to the masses. Not only is it a step in the right direction, it's something which appears to have momentum, and can only lead to greater things.
Speaking of things that are open, an old friend of mine, Andrei Herasimchuk, has a blog called Design by Fire. If you've never heard of him, you've certainly used his work. Andrei designed the first unified user interface at Adobe, which appeared across Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign. I believe that Illustrator 7 was the version that first portrayed Andrei's work, and while it was immediately met with much criticism at the time, Adobe's interface is considered second to none since then.
Recently, Andrei published an open letter to John Warnock. His plea was to help make for a better looking internet by releasing several typefaces into the public domain. His list of requested typefaces include Adobe Caslon Pro, Adobe Jenson Pro, Franklin Gothic, Frutiger, Futura, Gill Sans, Helvetica Neue, Univers, and Warnock Pro. Not a bad list if you ask me. For someone who is passionate about type, I can certainly agree with Andrei's goal here, and he has my support. Although apparently, it seems that John Warnock's indirect response has been "the internet has other problems it needs to solve" (thanks for the link, Gary).