Adobe Pigs Out (Again)by Ryan Wilson
Adobe recently announced their purchase of Figma for $20 billion US dollars, immediately causing feelings of betrayal and disgust amongst web developers worldwide. How is this betrayal? Why all the disgust?
Adobe has a history of letting their own products stagnate, then eventually killing them off or abandoning them altogether. Back in 2005, Adobe acquired Macromedia, who was Adobe’s only true rival at the time. Macromedia had an innovative design software called Fireworks, which was a very versatile tool for putting together website layouts using vector graphics and was basically an early version of Figma. Fireworks integrated seamlessly with Dreamweaver, another Macromedia product for creating websites that was considered state-of-the-art at the time. Adobe decided to abandon Fireworks in 2013 to promote Photoshop and Illustrator use in designing website layouts, even though neither of those programs had key development integrations such as HTML or CSS tags.
For the past decade, Adobe has had to contend with Figma, a San Francisco based startup that makes a great web design and development app, using vector graphics and allows for team collaboration online. Figma is easy to use, and can really speed up the development process by streamlining the creation of wireframes, user interfaces and visual site design. Adobe XD is basically Figma with a clunkier and somewhat awkward interface, but is used for the same purposes as Figma. One major difference is that for individual or freelance developers, Figma is free whereas Adobe XD starts at $10/month.
Here is where the betrayal and disgust set in, because it is clear that Adobe considers themselves to be the Microsoft of web development, swallowing up rivals and offering stale products that offer little to no innovation. Several years ago Adobe switched to a subscription based model, abandoning the ability to purchase their software at a fixed price. Adobe makes claims that Figma is not a “direct competitor”. If that is true, then who exactly is their direct competitor? Why are software companies seemingly free from antitrust laws? How is any of this good for web developers? Certainly it won’t be long before Figma is put behind a paywall and left to slowly deteriorate like so many of Adobe’s other products over the years.
In their press release, Adobe stated:
“With Adobe’s and Figma’s expansive product portfolio, the combined company will have a rare opportunity to power the future of work by bringing together capabilities for brainstorming, sharing, creativity and collaboration and delivering these innovations to hundreds of millions of customers.”
Here is a newsflash Adobe: developers already collaborate, share and create every single day without Adobe having to step in and corner the market on “collaboration”. Like Microsoft, Adobe is essentially the opposite of open-source. Their arrogant and condescending behavior shows little to no respect or concern for actual web developers and designers.
I have been in web development since the late 1990’s, back when the field was called web design. Having used Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and other products, I can say with certainty that their software has really not fundamentally changed or evolved over the past 25 years. Figma was an innovator, taking a “web first” approach to vector graphics, and was a better product than Adobe XD…and, they offered it for FREE.
Now, I know that nothing is really “free”. Clearly Figma has been positioning themselves to be bought out for a ridiculous sum of money for quite some time, and they did it. Hooray for you, Figma. Just like so many other Silicon Valley startups, you create something innovative and exciting, and then sell out and that’s the end of the innovation.
All this is to say that independent web developers need to collaborate with open source platforms as much as possible. One bright side of this predictable corporate acquisition is that hopefully this will encourage further interest in true open source design projects, such as https://penpot.app
It is much harder for developers who work on bigger teams or large corporations to switch to open source alternatives, but for freelancers and smaller groups the time has come to stop supporting Adobe or any other tech giants who continually show such contempt for the people who use their products.