flash103dFlash Player 10 beta is here, and it sports some impressive new visual tricks — further illustrations of what I mean when I say the "rich" part of rich media is so important, whatever the JavaScript coders may tell you:

  • 3D "effects" and API: this isn’t true 3D, as you can get with direct OpenGL access in Java (and thus Processing), but it does allow some basic 3D effects and greatly-simplified movement on the Z plane
  • Pixel effects: custom filters and effects via the Pixel Bender technology scripted in After Effects — rejoice, AE fans!
  • Advanced text: This is what I really miss in Processing, and the gap just got bigger. (Hmm… anyone want to code a ligature library?)
  • Newer drawing API: Badly-needed improvements for drawing shapes
  • Better performance: More GPU acceleration, all automatic, for drawing and video alike

I still think there are plenty of reasons to go with Processing as a visualist, and I’m excited to see how JavaFX, the new Java-based multimedia scripting language and platform from Sun, progresses. But Flash 10 should be very good news for people who like the things that make Flash Flash (video support, for instance, and things like tweening classes), and it means we should be seeing great new things in the awesome open source, Flash-based visual tool Onyx VJ in the near future.

Thanks to Glenn for the reminder!

You can check out some demos or even download the preview of the player itself:

Flash Player 10 @ Adobe Labs

What about Flash and open source? Well, the picture is a little clouded.

It’s a complex platform, and the best way to describe it would be "free-ish." If you want to go open source, you can use all-open development tools and compiler to do Flash work, and there’s the excellent Open Source Flash community, which shares projects and code. Many Flash coders are as open to sharing code as, say, the Processing community is. The sticking point is still the player, and Adobe isn’t entirely to blame — things like video codecs are notoriously difficult to make fully open source.

The Adobe Open Screen Project is a step in the right direction:

Open Screen Project

The project comes a little closer to the goal; Flash Player and AIR would be license-free, though not open source, and not until the next version (meaning they’re still behind some competitors). What you would get is the "porting layer API" for the player, plus the all-important SWF and FLV/F4V formats — though the latter, it seems to me, is coming a little late in the game.

If you want fully free and fully open, Java is the platform with the edge at the moment. But even Java isn’t perfect — JavaFX recently announced they’re adding new video codecs (finally!), but they won’t be open source (doh!), because they’re licensed from On2. At least the rest of the Java platform is now open, though, and I could easily see the OpenJDK initiative adding its own open alternative — not to mention Java, at worst, is more free and open than Flash will be, even with the Open Screen Project.