The buyout blues

I shouldn’t have felt shock, but I did. This morning as I ambled over to my desk, I heard the buzz about Adobe buying Macromedia. I felt a sharp stab of nostalgia, followed by regret. I remember Macromedia’s Dreamweaver 1 and Adobe’s Pagemill 1—and the excitement surrounding the release of these products around the mid-1990s for people who wanted to start building Web sites but who did not know, and had no desire to learn, HTML. I was not one of those people, but I could vastly appreciate the concept of drawing Web layout on a blank page, filling it with text and images, and even audio and video, and uploading it to the server. At that time, Symantec also had a product in this category, as did the now-defunct Claris. On the horizon was a product called CyberStudio, a Mac-based Web design and management program with professional programming features, from a new company called GoLive that was headed up by an extremely charming German engineer named Andreas Poliza. While I continued to hand code Web sites, I often came to rely on one of the visual designers to help me rough out Web design concepts quickly and easily. As the ’90s melted into the new century, I noted that, one-by-one, all the mid-level Web design apps that I had used and enjoyed (and reviewed) were being quietly phased out. In their place were fewer but larger, more elaborate, and more professional packages such as Adobe GoLive (the result of Adobe’s 1998 acquisition of GoLive), Dreamweaver, and to a lesser extent, Freeway (a very good tool specifically designed for desktop publishers who wanted to diversify into Web publishing). These advanced new applications were still classified as visual design tools, but they were heavily oriented toward Web services and programming. What bothers me about Adobe’s Macromedia buyout is that it further narrows choice in a marketplace that already had too few choices. Now there is one less commercial Web design program to choose from. And it’s not just Web design—Macromedia has built up a suite of products to work with Dreamweaver that often rivaled Adobe’s offerings in capability and usability. While Flash has an excellent chance of survival, I wonder what will become of Macromedia’s FireWorks, that fun, feisty upstart that managed to capture the affection of so many Web and print artists despite their devotion to Photoshop. I don’t have to wonder about the fate of Dreamweaver, GoLive’s direct competitor. It’s on the path to extinction, and that makes me unhappy.

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