Wednesday, July 5, 2023

Adobe at 40

Harry McCracken (2022, via Hacker News):

It’s a milestone that only a few of today’s highest-profile tech companies—such as Apple and Microsoft—have reached. And much of Adobe’s long history is tangibly present in its current business, which is full of products—such as, Photoshop, Illustrator, Acrobat, After Effects, and Premiere Pro—that have been around for longer than a meaningful percentage of the people who use them.


Adobe has been so dominant for so long in so many of the categories in which it competes that it’s easy to forget it was once a scrappy upstart with an uncertain future. In fact, if photocopying kingpin Xerox had been more adept at monetizing the breakthroughs of the brilliant scientists who worked for its PARC research lab, there might never have been an Adobe at all.


There are even alternate universes where Adobe itself didn’t make it into the 21st century. According to Pamela Pfiffner’s 2003 book, Inside the Publishing Revolution: The Adobe Story, Steve Jobs was so enamored with Adobe’s technology that he tried to acquire the company for $5 million in 1983, well before it had released any products. Prizing their independence, Warnock and Geschke turned down the offer, but later accepted a $2.5 million investment in return for 20% of Adobe. (Apple cashed out in 1989.) In 1998, when Adobe was experiencing a rare downturn in its business, it was even the target of a hostile takeover bid by its smaller rival Quark.

Brendan Dawes (2019):

No longer will you find Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator on any of the Macs I use. You will find Premiere but that’s only kept around in case I need to load an old project. After twenty three years of using Adobe products in a professional capacity, I’ve now moved away from them as a company as I find there subscription model not something I can partake in, especially when they can suddenly decide to switch off older versions of the CS suite, making those programs you might use everyday useless — unless you stump up more money.

Via Colin Devroe (2019):

I think the Adobe products are worth the price tag. I think most software is, in fact, under-priced. But the way they’ve been treating their longest, most faithful, customers is beginning to wear people down. This isn’t an issue of price or value.

I think we’re going to see either Adobe acquiring more of their competitors through brute force, or they will need to make some adjustments to their model over the next 5 years.

People are still grumbling about Adobe and subscriptions years later, but most seem to be paying. Rather than Adobe making adjustments, it seems like more companies are following their lead. However, there is more competition now, e.g. from Affinity and Figma, which Adobe is in the process of acquiring.

Like many, I’m conflicted about Adobe. The apps themselves continue to work well for me, but the associated installers and daemons seem to be increasingly bloated and janky.

Paul Bischoff (via Hacker News):

Nearly 7.5 million Adobe Creative Cloud user records were left exposed to anyone with a web browser, including email addresses, account information, and which Adobe products they use.

Deceptive Patterns (Hacker News):

How Adobe tricks users into a 12 month contract.


It took me a while to get the facts, but it turns out that by clicking “Start free trial”, we are tied into an annual contract.

If we want to leave, we have to pay 50% of the outstanding ANNUAL BALANCE!

Marc Edwards:

Adobe’s sub cancellation policy would have to be the single worst decision the company has made in its entire history.

Are Sundnes:

So, I wanted to cancel a couple of our @Adobe licenses. I’m THIS close to cancelling all of them. What the hell is up with this?


I can afford Adobe software. I just can’t afford their bullshit.

Marc Edwards:

The script for cancelling your Adobe CC sub is: I’m changing jobs and my new employer already has a sub for me, so I don’t need my current one. If they ask who the company is, say you can’t tell them because you’ve signed an NDA.

Managing subscriptions is one problem that the App Store does do a good job of solving. But the main Adobe apps are not in the Mac App Store.

And the grass may not be much greener with Figma…


We had to migrate files across different accounts. The only way we found possible was to add the origin account as editor and transfer the files and ownership. Anything else resulted in losing edit privileges during the process.

A month later, we get a notice that we owe 15$.

During the interaction of adding another editor, we never got any feedback from Figma about that costing an extra 15$.

Now, we got a ticket about the issue but, as usual, it delays days to be handled (another drawback that needs to be addressed).

Last but not least, even the editor account that was paid for one year in advance is now locked.


Now it is way too easy to add editors unintentionally and there is no warning about extra change for each one of them. I understand that it’s very beneficial for the company but not very friendly for designers, especially freelancers that are working with different external teams. I’m keeping getting charged for people I accidentally gave editing rights some time ago.


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Subscription management in figma is a mess. Att my tiny 25ppl company where just the of us need the paid version, we're regularly paying for an extra seat because someone shared a file the wrong way.

No wonder that dude on Iceland managed to save Twitter $500K by going through figma subs.

"by clicking “Start free trial”, we are tied into an annual contract."
"During the interaction of adding another editor, we never got any feedback from Figma about that costing an extra 15$."

Both of these seem super illegal to me.

It's also darkly funny how shit Figmas UX for handling subscriptions is.

The number one UX tool and all that.

Still love Figma though. Love the web first approach and all the benefits that bring. Love the constant upgrades.

Never mind their shady subscription policy, Adobe’s software suite is cringe, especially on the Mac. I’m certain the technical debt in their code dwarfs anything that lives in a Microsoft product; and that’s saying a lot. I simply won’t pollute my computer with their garbage. I’ve successfully transitioned all my workflows to alternatives like Pixelmator and Affinity.

The sooner we all abandon Adobe the better for the industry at large.

Yes, I’m bitter :p


No bigger Adobe fan than me helped Adobe grow.
Over the years I paid $100K+ for licenses, equipping teams, RIPs, fonts, etc. for various companies I've run.
Then that day came when my personal income stopped.
And Adobe locks me out of everything without yearly extortion.
Why can't Adobe allow our old files to be opened and viewed and exported to PDF without license?
It's not like I'm still creating for revenue.
Adobe's final swift kick to my zipper. And what about retired designers? SOL.

When Adobe Indesign came out, MacAddict (later MacLife) asked readers if they'd rather deal with Quark, the makers of Express, or a rabid gibbon with mange. The gibbon won. Quark owned the desktop publishing market, but their wonderful user friendly approach gave Adobe a leg up.

I get Adobe stuff for free since I'm a student, and on my Windows PC it's insane how differently sized the UI is for Photoshop vs Illustrator. In Illustrator I can fine tune it to actually look good and be legible on my 4K display. Photoshop has no such UI scaling setting, so the toolbar icons and the main text menus along the top are super tiny -- much smaller than any other app I use (Chrome, MS Office, ArcGIS, etc...). I'm not sure who to blame, Adobe or Windows because it's still kind of insane that all these years later Windows continues to have major issues with HiDPI and 4K monitors, even among apps/features built-in to Windows. There's just no consistency whatsoever in text found in the main menus, buttons, toolbars, etc. It varies wildly depending on the app.

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