Merger spells bad news for online developers

The announcement of a $3,5-billion takeover of Macromedia by Adobe Systems has sent a shockwave across the web development community. 

Macromedia products such as Dreamweaver, Fireworks and Flash are widely regarded as the best products on the market for building websites and interactive applications. Macromedia also has one of the most effective web application server products, called ColdFusion, in its product stable. 

Adobe Systems has been in direct competition with Macromedia with its products such as GoLive for web layout, and PhotoShop has been the cornerstone of graphic manipulation and design for a long, long time. 

So, it would seem, on the surface, that this is a match made in heaven—two of the most powerful companies in the industry finally pooling resources, skills and strategies. But as one scratches the surface, it becomes clear that Macromedia product users should be concerned.

For starters, the future of Flash is in question with the heavy investment Adobe has made in recent years into the scalable vector graphics initiative, a format that would potentially compete with the Flash format that is much loved by developers all over the world.

One could also question the future of a product such as Fireworks when faced with internal competition from a market leader such as PhotoShop. 

The niche Fireworks has carved for itself as a dedicated imaging and design tool for websites is an important one, and many web designers, myself included, feel the PhotoShop feature set is overkill for some of the simpler tasks required by web designers.

The concern is about not only the futures of individual products, but also the broader philosophy of each company when it comes to making their products more useable. 

While Adobe has floundered in the web-design and development market, the usability of its products remains problematic. Some of the tools have become so feature-rich that they are difficult to use, while Macromedia has remained dedicated to making its software as usable as possible.

There is also the question of brand loyalty. Many web designers have grown up using Macromedia software, and are simply scared that their favourite products are about to become Adobe bloatware. I share that fear. In fact, I’m considering forming a laager and never upgrading again.