Adobe shows frayed nerves, trots out co-founders, ads to peddle proprietary Flash as ‘open’

Adobe must be getting really nervous about now, as sites line up to add HTML5 video to their sites in order to serve users who are not saddled with Adobe’s closed, buggy, inefficient, battery-draining, old fashioned plug-in-based Flash. With the dominoes clearly falling, Adobe has launched and ad campaign (left) in a few major newspapers (the ones that remain) and on some websites (Wired, etc. via Flash-based ads no less, that users of iPhones, iPod touches, and iPads won’t even see) and bypassed The Ingrate Gazoo, their ineffective and unappealing CEO Shantanu Narayen, and instead resorted to trotting out their cofounders, Chuck Geschke and John Warnock, who, sadly, have signed onto an open letter derivatively titled “Our thoughts on open markets.” Adobe’s even lazy when they title their propaganda. Below, we’ve intercut Adobe’s pack of lies with Steve Jobs’ April 2010 open letter, “Thoughts on Flash.

The only thing “open” about Adobe is their propaganda letter.

Adobe co-founders: The genius of the Internet is its almost infinite openness to innovation. New hardware. New software. New applications. New ideas. They all get their chance.

As the founders of Adobe, we believe open markets are in the best interest of developers, content owners, and consumers. Freedom of choice on the web has unleashed an explosion of content and transformed how we work, learn, communicate, and, ultimately, express ourselves.

If the web fragments into closed systems, if companies put content and applications behind walls, some indeed may thrive — but their success will come at the expense of the very creativity and innovation that has made the Internet a revolutionary force.

Apple co-founder Jobs: “Adobe’s Flash products are 100% proprietary. They are only available from Adobe, and Adobe has sole authority as to their future enhancement, pricing, etc.”

Adobe co-founders: We believe that consumers should be able to freely access their favorite content and applications, regardless of what computer they have, what browser they like, or what device suits their needs. No company — no matter how big or how creative — should dictate what you can create, how you create it, or what you can experience on the web.

Apple co-founder Jobs: “While Adobe’s Flash products are widely available, this does not mean they are open, since they are controlled entirely by Adobe and available only from Adobe. By almost any definition, Flash is a closed system.”

Adobe co-founders: When markets are open, anyone with a great idea has a chance to drive innovation and find new customers. Adobe’s business philosophy is based on a premise that, in an open market, the best products will win in the end — and the best way to compete is to create the best technology and innovate faster than your competitors.

Apple co-founder Jobs: “Rather than use Flash, Apple has adopted HTML5, CSS and JavaScript – all open standards. Apple’s mobile devices all ship with high performance, low power implementations of these open standards. HTML5, the new web standard that has been adopted by Apple, Google and many others, lets web developers create advanced graphics, typography, animations and transitions without relying on third party browser plug-ins (like Flash). HTML5 is completely open and controlled by a standards committee, of which Apple is a member.”

Adobe co-founders: That, certainly, was what we learned as we launched PostScript® and PDF, two early and powerful software solutions that work across platforms. We openly published the specifications for both, thus inviting both use and competition. In the early days, PostScript attracted 72 clone makers, but we held onto our market leadership by out-innovating the pack. More recently, we’ve done the same thing with Adobe® Flash® technology. We publish the specifications for Flash — meaning anyone can make their own Flash player. Yet, Adobe Flash technology remains the market leader because of the constant creativity and technical innovation of our employees.

Apple co-founder Jobs: “Apple began with a small open source project and created WebKit, a complete open-source HTML5 rendering engine that is the heart of the Safari web browser used in all our products. WebKit has been widely adopted. Google uses it for Android’s browser, Palm uses it, Nokia uses it, and RIM (Blackberry) has announced they will use it too. Almost every smartphone web browser other than Microsoft’s uses WebKit. By making its WebKit technology open, Apple has set the standard for mobile web browsers.”

Adobe co-founders: We believe that Apple, by taking the opposite approach, has taken a step that could undermine this next chapter of the web — the chapter in which mobile devices outnumber computers, any individual can be a publisher, and content is accessed anywhere and at any time.

Apple co-founder Jobs: “When websites re-encode their videos using H.264, they can offer them without using Flash at all. They play perfectly in browsers like Apple’s Safari and Google’s Chrome without any plugins whatsoever, and look great on iPhones, iPods and iPads.”

Adobe co-founders: In the end, we believe the question is really this: Who controls the World Wide Web? And we believe the answer is: nobody — and everybody, but certainly not a single company.

Chuck Geschke, John Warnock
Chairmen, Adobe Board of Directors

Apple co-founder Jobs: “Besides the fact that Flash is closed and proprietary, has major technical drawbacks, and doesn’t support touch based devices, there is an even more important reason we do not allow Flash on iPhones, iPods and iPads. We have discussed the downsides of using Flash to play video and interactive content from websites, but Adobe also wants developers to adopt Flash to create apps that run on our mobile devices.”

“We know from painful experience that letting a third party layer of software come between the platform and the developer ultimately results in sub-standard apps and hinders the enhancement and progress of the platform. If developers grow dependent on third party development libraries and tools, they can only take advantage of platform enhancements if and when the third party chooses to adopt the new features. We cannot be at the mercy of a third party deciding if and when they will make our enhancements available to our developers.”

“This becomes even worse if the third party is supplying a cross platform development tool. The third party may not adopt enhancements from one platform unless they are available on all of their supported platforms. Hence developers only have access to the lowest common denominator set of features. Again, we cannot accept an outcome where developers are blocked from using our innovations and enhancements because they are not available on our competitor’s platforms.”

“Flash is a cross platform development tool. It is not Adobe’s goal to help developers write the best iPhone, iPod and iPad apps. It is their goal to help developers write cross platform apps. And Adobe has been painfully slow to adopt enhancements to Apple’s platforms. For example, although Mac OS X has been shipping for almost 10 years now, Adobe just adopted it fully (Cocoa) two weeks ago when they shipped CS5. Adobe was the last major third party developer to fully adopt Mac OS X.”

“Our motivation is simple – we want to provide the most advanced and innovative platform to our developers, and we want them to stand directly on the shoulders of this platform and create the best apps the world has ever seen. We want to continually enhance the platform so developers can create even more amazing, powerful, fun and useful applications. Everyone wins – we sell more devices because we have the best apps, developers reach a wider and wider audience and customer base, and users are continually delighted by the best and broadest selection of apps on any platform.”

“Flash was created during the PC era – for PCs and mice. Flash is a successful business for Adobe, and we can understand why they want to push it beyond PCs. But the mobile era is about low power devices, touch interfaces and open web standards – all areas where Flash falls short.”

“The avalanche of media outlets offering their content for Apple’s mobile devices demonstrates that Flash is no longer necessary to watch video or consume any kind of web content. And the 200,000 apps on Apple’s App Store proves that Flash isn’t necessary for tens of thousands of developers to create graphically rich applications, including games.”

“New open standards created in the mobile era, such as HTML5, will win on mobile devices (and PCs too). Perhaps Adobe should focus more on creating great HTML5 tools for the future, and less on criticizing Apple for leaving the past behind.”

Steve Jobs
April, 2010

MacDailyNews Take: Adobe’s in so deep now that they don’t know to stop digging. They’re going to drown sooner than later. That they’ve persuaded Geschke and Warnock to join in, or at least slap their names on that mess, is sad. We’re embarrassed for them. If they can’t see that posting a letter claiming to be “open” in the name of pimping 100% proprietary software is pure hypocrisy, they’re totally blind. Oh, by the way, we love that “Adobe® Flash®” itself is festooned with registered trademarks in their own letter attempting to trumpet their “openness!” Hypocrites.

Listen, Geschke, Warnock, The Ingrate Gazoo, and other assorted Adobe peons: This “choice” line of bullshit didn’t work for Microsoft, it didn’t work the failure that is RealNetworks, it isn’t going to work for you dopes, either. Your argument isn’t just weak, it’s as nonexistent as Flash video’s destiny.

Adobe is a once great company that lost its way well over a decade ago. If they keep up this current line of myopic bullshit, they’re going to lose a lot more than control of Web video via a proprietary, out-moded, inefficient, insecure, fan-revving, closed plug-in-based platform.

Apple has tens of thousands of developers already. Developers who know how to program for Apple’s iPhone OS. They don’t need Adobe’s “help.”

Lastly, to make this very clear: We do not want ported software on our iPhones, iPads, and iPod touches. The type of “write once, deploy everywhere” software that lazy Adobe wants to “help” developers excrete results in lowest common denominator apps that fail to take advantage of individual platforms’ strengths. Rather than see developers create great experiences by playing to the strengths of individual platforms, lazy Adobe instead wants mediocrity everywhere. They just want to control the tools developers used to poop out cookie-cutter apps that fail to inspire users by failing to take advantage of each platform’s unique hardware and operating system features.

If anyone somehow remains confused after all that (Mr. Ballmer, is that you?), simply check out Scribd’s cute-but-withering explanation of why they dumped Adobe’s proprietary flash for open standard HTML5 to present their millions of online documents here.

MacDailyNews Note: Note to advertisers: (including those who advertise via third-party ad networks and become, in effect, our advertisers): Your Flash-based ads are no longer reaching the most well-heeled customers online: 50+ million iPhone owners. They’re also not hitting 35+ million iPod touch users or 1+ million brand new iPad users. If you care about reaching people with discretionary income, you might want to consider dumping your flash-based ads and moving to a more open format that people with money and the will to spend it can actually see.

Help kill Adobe’s Flash:
• Ask MarketWatch to offer HTML5 video via the customer support web form here.
• Ask CNBC to offer HTML5 video via the customer support web form here.
• Contact Hulu and ask them to offer HTML5 video via email:
• Ask ESPN360 to offer HTML5 video instead Flash via their feedback page here.
• Join YouTube’s HTML5 beta here.
• On Vimeo, click the “Switch to HTML5 player” link below any video.

By the way, do not buy Adobe’s Photoshop Elements until you have tried Pixelmator’s free 30-day trial. We use Pixelmator daily.

Try Pixelmator's free 30-day trial today!


  1. I recently delivered some FLVs to a client–which they specifically requested, and knew they needed.

    Thanks to IT they were unable to view the videos and had to put in a request to have the Flash plug-in installed.

    That’s also been the case with h.264 wrapped in quicktime I’ve deleivered. The Windozed IT machines(I sound like Strom Thurmon describing a microphone), basically, glorified e-mail receptacles/web browser PCs they call workstation where I work can play only Windoze Media Video.

    So I deliver Flash (FLV) video to clients who can’t view it for them to post it to federal web pages that not all federal “workstations” can view.

    I dunno where I’m going with this but HTML-5 seems like the answer.

  2. This is a very interesting article, and there is much to agree with, however I think it is useful to note that there are other reasons why developers and other people might reasonably want to develop software (apps) for the iPhone etal. Specifically, in my view at least, someone might want to move source code from another computer language over to the iPhone. Perhaps some windows developer would want to move some C# code, or a Lisp algorithm, or visual basic, or Pascal, or any number of other languages that exist today. You can say that no one would ever want to do that, but that doesn’t make it true. Apple is also preventing all interpreted languages from being implemented on the iPhone, apparently because they often have too much access to the hardware, and can cause crashes. This is a pretty serious limitation. I don’t argue Apples right to do what they are doing, but I do question the wisdom of these actions.

  3. @btaylor,

    Wont IT then have to install HTML-5 software on those glorified e-mail receptacles/web browser PCs they call workstations where you work? Seems they’re locked in to Windoze Media Video; *that* is the major problem.

  4. HTML5 is open source, its free

    How Adobe Flash is open? If I do not own any Adobe Flash development tool, then how can I build up a flash and compile to all different platform???? WHAT? I need pay to get a copy of Adobe Flash first??? ouch…

  5. Adobe, Microsoft, and Autodesk, to name a few, got lazy because Intel and other chip makers were successful during the past 20+ years making processors faster and faster. This allowed these companies to expand the capabilities of their software by just adding code to it and pasting patches onto patches. They never worried about efficient code because the faster processors allowed their POS programs to work fine.

    Not that the march up the GHz scale has stopped and small, cool, low-power processors are taking over, these guys are stuck. It is like they built big-ass cars to cruise down the 8-lane freeways at 70 mph, but are now forced to race their crap-heaps in the Baja 1000.

    Well, you know what happens to fools who enter their Caddies in the Baja, they don’t make it 5 miles.

    Apple on the other hand jettisoned their old operating system for OS X ten years ago to prepare for this day. Then they rewrote the code in Snow Leopard to even better prepare for the future. Moreover, they slimmed down OS X for their mobile devices so gadgets like the iPad can yield 10 hour battery life.

    The morale of the story: don’t be making better horseshoes when you are seeing cars drive by.

  6. I think Adobe continues to try and say that Flash is open because they are not refusing anyone its product. Just pay up. To Adobe, Apple is outright refusing access to its hardware–no “Hey Adobe, make it better in these ways…–just, no way.” Thus, in this narrow sense, Apple is closing itself to popular services and web video. I may be oversimplifying things here, but I believe that is there claim.

  7. @Kevin J Weise

    no – the HTML5 standard will soon be supported by your browser natively – no need for a plug in or other adaptation. Just like browsers support CSS now, no need for a plug in.

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