Silverlight for Linux. And it’s open source!

As reported by Linux Weekly News, Microsoft has just announced version 1.0 of their Adobe Flash competitor, Silverlight.

An interesting development is that they are also working with Novell to bring the technology to Linux (to be known as Moonlight). Moonlight supposedly will be GPL’ed, with the exception of the binary codecs needed for playback of proprietary Windows Media formats.

So Linux is still a second-hand citizen (version 1.0 is out, and development on the Linux port is just announced?), but this might be interesting for those of us (read: most Linux desktop users) that have been waiting for a decent Flash playback (forget authoring) solutions. Still no x86_64 support after all these years, forcing people to stick to 32-bit browsers (or use nspluginwrapper). And unless Adobe has changed things since acquiring Macromedia, anyone who has merely used the Flash plugin is tainted and can’t work on Flash reimplementations!

(From this interview [lwn.net] with principal developers of Swfdec and Gnash)

Rob: The Adobe EULA for Flash forbids anyone who has installed their Flash tools or plugin from working on Flash technologies. This has had a chilling effect on the development of free Flash players, since a developer must either choose to decide that Adobe won’t sue them over this, or to do what Gnash does, which is a slow and inefficient, clean room, reverse engineering project.

As I argued, Novell would most likely require copyright assignments on contributions to Moonlight, and thus the use of GPL is not going to hinder Microsoft benefiting from community contribution (interesting, from a once anti-GPL company). The framework is conveniently written in C# as well, so it’s not going to directly benefit the Gnash and Swfdec projects (Flash), but depending on how clearly Novell marks up their code for patent-encumbrance, it could still either benefit or act as a time bomb for Flash projects..

Naturally, I’d still advise anyone to refrain from using Silverlight/Moonlight unless it’s being used as a container for standard (H.263/4) codecs. WMV is an abomination dating back to the AVI days — note how most HD- and BD-DVDs are encoded in H.264, not VC-1 which is basically WMV.

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