That free replacement is the Gnash player. Rob Savoye gave a talk about how that project is progressing. He founded Cygnus solutions and worked on GCC before working on Gnash, so he’s bringing plenty of hacking experience to the project.
Rob explained that the next release of Gnash, later this year, will support Flash 9 and (in a bit of news of great interest to those of us in the UK) the BBC’s iPlayer Flash interface.
In a discussion session on Sunday someone asked about Flash authoring on GNU/Linux. There are tools both for compiling ActionScript (MTASC) and for compiling graphics and sound assets (swfmill). I developed the Flash version of draw-something using MTASC and Emacs for example.
Whether you develop using Free Software or not, if you develop Flash 8 web sites please test them against Gnash and report any differences in behaviour as bugs. This will help the Gnash project help you with an even better Gnash player.
The Gnash project, like many free software projects, needs financial support, so if you can help do get in touch with them.