RIAs and Free Software

Some issues with RIAs I’ve been wondering:

  • How come there’s no Flash-based Ogg player? Actually, it seems that a Vorbis player is being worked on, which is great, but I’m still puzzled that this hasn’t come about way, way earlier.
  • How come there’s no Flash-based Ogg player that would work with the free Flash player implementations? Granted that having one that works with the non-free plugin, which is the most prevalent, is of massively bigger importance for spreading Ogg, than having a fully freedom-friendly one. And also, those of us who choose to use the free implementations probably have no problems playing back Oggs without a Flash-based player. However, I’m not trying to be critical here; these are just issues that I find confusing in how the free software community works. (More on this below.)
  • Is Flash a non-free format? Is there such a thing as a ‘non-free format’, or am I just confused in my terminology?
  • Are there any truly free RIA platforms? I know of none. Based on what I understand from the Wikipedia article, Moonlight can hardly be considered one, given its MS-imposed restrictions.
  • If there aren’t any truly free RIA platforms, why not?

As I said, this isn’t a criticism. I’m just genuinely puzzled by these questions and how the community works. More generally, I would presume that it would be natural for those striving to free people from non-free formats and software, to begin from their own side of things (the free software world), and from there to reach towards those still locked in. This would pave a nice, finished road for the unfree to flock back to the other side with them.

Let’s say a locked-in user comes to contact with Ogg through a Flash-based player on the web. They then, through proper evangelising, start to contemplate switching to a free Flash player. But if the free player can’t play the Ogg files displayed on their favourite sites, they face the added difficulty of having to try and get them to play otherwise.

If, instead, they’d find that the free Flash implementation they’ve now switched to plays the Ogg player just fine, they won’t have to go through the hoop of getting the Oggs to play otherwise — at least not until they start contemplating ditching Flash altogether for being a non-free format.

And what about ditching Flash, if you still want to have RIAs in your truly free world? With Ogg itself it seems to me that the work began as it should have, with laying the foundations by creating a free alternative. But what if there’s no free alternative for the non-free RIA platforms?

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