Your Workflow is the Battlefield

There’s been quite the wailing and gnashing of teeth over the Apple iPad not supporting Flash. Personally, I welcome this new landscape of the web, where a future without Flash seems not only bright but possible indeed.

That said, what is unfolding here is of considerable gravity, and will likely determine the future of the web. Most web professionals use Adobe tools in some capacity to do their job, whether Photoshop, Illustrator, Dreamweaver (gasp), Flash, Flex, Flash Cataylst, or even Fireworks (which is, according to many, the best wireframing tool on the market, despite its quirks and crash-prone behaviors).

Now, I am not privy to inside information, but based on what I’ve been able to glean, Adobe’s strategy is something like this. There is a deliberate reason that your workflow as a standards-based web professional sucks; that Photoshop doesn’t behave the way you want it to, that exporting web images is still a pain in the ass, and that you actually need to fight the software to get it to do what you want.

Adobe knows how you use its software. Adobe knows how you want to use its software. Adobe understands your existing workflow.

And it doesn’t fucking care.

You see, Adobe doesn’t view you, as a web professional, as someone engaged in building websites. It doesn’t view itself as one who builds the tools to support you in your job. Adobe does not view you as the author of images and CSS and HTML and Javascript that all magically comes together to create a website, but rather as the author of what could potentially be Adobe Web Properties™.

They are not interested in supporting your workflow to create standards-based websites, because that is not in their strategic interest. They would much rather you consented to the cognitive model of Adobe Software™ to create proprietary Adobe Web Properties™ that render using Adobe Web Technologies™.

In essence, Adobe wants to be the gatekeeper for the production, as well as the consumption, of the web.

Apple knows this, and knows that the future of the web is mobile. Their actions are no less strategic than that of Adobe, and Apple has chosen a route that deliberately undermines Adobe’s strategy; Adobe’s strategy for controlling not just the consumption of rich interactive experiences on the web, but their production as well.

From the production side, as far as Adobe is concerned, if you’re not building your websites in Flash Catalyst and exporting them as Flash files, you’re doing it wrong.

Your frustrations with Photoshop and Fireworks in not supporting the “real way” web professionals build standards-based websites are not by accident, but by design. Adobe views each website as a potential property over which they can exert control over the look, feel and experience. As these “experiences” become more sophisticated, so do the tools necessary to create them. Adobe wants to be in the business of selling the only tools that do the job, controlling your production from end-to-end, and then even controlling the publication of and access to your creation.

Apple’s own domination plans for the mobile web undermines all this.

And Adobe is pissed.


  1. February 1, 2010 – 9:23 pm

    I really love what Gruber had to say about all this, “Flash is the only de facto web standard based on a proprietary technology” Bam. And even if it’s in Apple’s self-interest to pursue HTML5 rather than Flash, at least what we’d all end up with is an open standard.

  2. February 1, 2010 – 11:27 pm

    Heck yeah!

    Zeldman has a similar take, and ends on an optimistic note. Adobe has an incredible opportunity to support these workflows of the near-future, and help us create these rich HTML5 web experiences.

    I mean, they’ve never really supported our workflows in the past (at least, not since the standards-based movement really gained steam in 2004), but there’s always the future!

  3. February 2, 2010 – 8:07 pm

    On a side note, I’m pretty much over Adobe. I feel that the ridiculous cost of their software is the single biggest barrier to entry for folks without means who want to design for the web.

    I never would have gotten my start a decade ago were it not for Hotline Client — take that to mean what you will. The web should be free and open, and it shouldn’t cost you $1k to put custom graphics on your site.

    I hope to see open source alternatives thrive and overtake Adobe eventually. I’m interested in Gimp and Aviary. Adobe is like the Wal-Mart of web graphics, it’s gotta go.