Adobe: the biggest WebKit contributor you didn't know about
by Mary Branscombe
Buying PhoneGap just as it turns into an Apache Incubator project is perfectly in line with Adobe's new approach to open source as the place where the innovation is happening, Adobe's director of open source Dave McAllister tells Mary Branscombe.
Adobe is no newcomer to open source and open standards; it has been on dozens of committees and involved in over 100 standards, including making PDF an ISO standard and putting out the Flex SDK as open source. But the way Adobe is involved with open source now, especially through the Apache Foundation and WebKit, seems less haphazard and more strategic. Dave McAllister, who has been shepherding Adobe's open source work for several years now, says "the biggest change since last year is our adoption of and contribution to external projects – the adoption and understanding of community-led open source projects that are adding value to Adobe's basic platforms."
That's a different approach from Adobe putting out an SDK or a project of its own. "It's not so much about us saying 'here's this Adobe technology we're releasing under an open source licence, now use it'" says McAllister. "We still do that, but we don't need to do it as actively. As we move to a better understanding of principles of the innovation that this can bring to platforms, it makes sense because our business is building things that run on platforms – and open source leads to so much on innovation on platforms."
Some of that, but certainly not all, has come from acquiring companies like Nitobi and Day who were already involved in projects through Apache, but there's a lot of work being done by core teams at Adobe, both in Apache and beyond, in projects that are mainstream rather than niche. "We're making massive contributions to Apache," he points out. "We are the drivers for jQuery Mobile, we are working on jQuery DataGrid, we are now massively involved in WebKit and in CSS Regions and Shaders [with the W3C]; CSS Regions are mainstream for WebKit [now] and Shaders are moving that way. We have two full time employees also now who are committers to WebKit and we did not have that last year. They also are working on specific technologies with WebKit, like CSS Regions and Shaders. Not including the PhoneGap submission, the number of Apache projects with current or past participation from Adobe employees is 31."
As well as being the choice of companies that it has acquired, Apache is a good fit with Adobe's approach, both from a licensing perspective (McAllister has previously told The H that "we tend to favour licences along the line of 'here is some code, do what you want with it, don't sue me, have a nice day'") and because of the way so many Apache projects focus on improving the platforms that Adobe's developer tools target.