Thoughts on Adobe Squiggly & Developer Relations

Squiggly is the new spell checking component that Adobe recently released on labs. I haven’t had a chance to test it in depth, so I’m not sure yet how it compares to our Spelling Plus Library, but I have to admit that its release frustrated me a bit.

I’m not at all worried to have competition in the space, we’ve had a good run with SPL so far, and competition is always welcome. Rather, I’m concerned about who I’m competing with.

See, one of the things that the Flash world really lacks is a strong commercial component marketplace. We have a thriving OSS culture, which is awesome, but while it is very prolific it rarely creates highly reliable, documented, and well-supported libraries. It’s a weakness of the platform, especially when you look at the hundreds or thousands of enterprise class commercial components available for languages like Java or C#.

That’s why, when Adobe spends a large amount of resources building a spelling component that directly competes with one of the few successful commercial components in the Flash world, it frustrates me. It’s not the potential impact to our revenue from SPL (which was a largely unexpected bonus of building it), competition is an expectation in this industry, and I wouldn’t be writing this post if it was a third party that built Squiggly. Rather, it’s the message it sends to other potential component developers.

Adobe could have used SPL as a customer success story to entice other developers into offering high-quality components. They could have even helped promote SPL, to actively encourage the growth of a commercial eco-system. Instead, they issued a warning to those same developers that if you build something that generates demand, they will compete with you directly (or worse yet, release a competing component for free).

I understand that there is a lot of value in Adobe providing an official spell checking solution, assuming it remains updated and well supported. However, at a minimum they could have given us advance warning of Squiggly’s release, or even had a discussion early on to see if what we had built would work for what they need. It must be close, as they are already using SPL in a number of their own projects. They need to work with their developers, not against them, if they want a strong platform long term.

[Important note: I was provided 3 weeks notice of the release. I originally thought it was only a couple of days notice, and so didn’t feel it was even worth mentioning in this post. The notice basically just informed me that Adobe might be releasing an OSS spelling library at some point in the future. In fact, I believe part of the reason that I was so far off in remembering the amount of notice I got (beyond being ridiculously busy at the time), was that it really wasn’t actionable in any way, so I basically dismissed it. It was better than nothing though, I appreciated it, and it is remiss not to have mentioned it. Sincere apologies to Christian.]

I’d like to chalk this up to pure ineptitude and cluelessness. It wouldn’t even shock me if the team that built Squiggly was completely unaware of SPL, despite that showing a lack of basic web searching ability. I’m certainly hoping it wasn’t a case of Adobe seeing something that worked, that filled a need, and that demonstrated demand, and saying “hey, we should do that too”. Either way, it demonstrates a lack of understanding of developer relations, and how to foster a healthy component ecosystem. This is also something that Adobe / Macromedia has a history of doing, so its not like this is a first offense.

Note that the above doesn’t apply to all of Adobe. There are people who get it, and I thank them for bringing this issue up internally. Unfortunately, I think Adobe needs to embrace a corporate culture of supporting their developers both technically and from a business perspective, not just among their evangelists, but also with their product and executive teams. If we’re successful, Flash (and by extension Adobe) will be successful.

What do you think?

Do you have an idea for encouraging a healthy ecosystem for commercial components? Share it here.

Grant Skinner

The "g" in gskinner. Also the "skinner".



  1. agree with all your points…

    IMO Adobe could have done something better and more impressive if they had exposed the input-fields to the OS’s spell-check framework. (On a Mac at least – don’t know what facility exists for Windows users, but one centralised dictionary across all apps is a way better user-experience than having multiple dictionaries). This would have required a change to the player and could only be done by Adobe.

  2. Interesting point of view. I was wondering if you worked on that or if it was something they decided to do on their side…

    Sad it’s not a collaboration, and everything you say about Adobe’s decision here is true.

  3. I’m also annoyed by the lack of a component market place. It’s really hard to sell Flash source code, which means the only way to share a good piece of code is to open-source it. This greatly reduces the number of available libraries, as many people aren’t happy making their code open source. I do think the relationship between a primary tools provider and 3rd parties will always be awkward (e.g. FlashDevelop and FDT), but it’s strange that Adobe would not warm you, Grant, considering in many ways you are their developer poster boy!

  4. Agreed! I know when Connect was first built (Breeze back then) it competed against existing products on the market. And they even added a specialized piece in the player for screen sharing that only they could use, making it impossible for others to compete. was one of these products before Breeze.

  5. Yes! Very well put. I too have been concerned about the lack of commercial third-party libraries. This is an area that Silverlight will do great with, while Flash will still just have what Adobe provides, or OS only options. OS is great, but if it isn’t production quality then I can’t use it most of the time.

  6. It’s a shame, but it doesn’t surprise me at all.

    Adobe has a lot of good people working for it, but it’s a Big Company. Perhaps the voices there who are speaking for the developer are getting drowned out. Whatever their development process is, it doesn’t seem to be developer-centric. It’s more about tacking on new features. So, their software follows their company – always getting larger and less efficient.

  7. I actually disagree with you, I believe Adobe’s approach to this was very good, and in fact a lot of people in the community will benefit with this. I don’t want to sound like this, but I think you are talking mostly by looking at this from a point of view in which you think Adobe owes it to you to approach you, did you ever consider approaching Adobe with SPL and incorporate into their offerings? Because as you mentioned, this is a commercial race and you were most likely concern with the revenue you are getting from it. I know a lot of people who create free tools and cannot afford getting an SPL license, and having Adobe do this will be very beneficial for everyone, and the last thing we need is for them to think we are ungrateful about this new feature.

    Adobe incorporates lots of new features and chooses to either build it themselves or buy them out, it is all part of the business side of things. If they had to reach out to every person creating components that they were incorporating, that would just not be practical.

    Again, it does kind of hurt when a giant jumps directly into competition with the “little” guys, but that is life. If Adobe had thought SPL was worth incorporating, I believe that they would have reached out to you, but they obviously didn’t, and that should be no reason to criticize them.

  8. Unfortunately, this is one of those things that just makes sense for Adobe to do. The reason you guys came up with it in the first place was that you saw a need that wasn’t filled, that SHOULD have already been filled by Adobe.

    I would compare this to Apple’s lack of MMS in the iPhone, its one of those features that SHOULD have already been there but ,for whatever reason, it wasn’t. There were other iPhone apps out there that gave you MMS support, yet Apple decided to release their MMS support anyway. Granted, Apple’s decision was based on quality of MMS and realized that the options out there were simply not as good as native MMS support.

    This is where I see Adobe straying from where they SHOULD be. First, they should have included built-in spellcheck support from the beginning, and at a very low level. They could have taken advantage of the inner workings of the flash player to give us access to something faster and better. Instead, and this is where they went wrong, they did what any 3rd party component developer could have done (and did do).

    As far as the price is concerned, I can see Adobe’s position on this. Since spell-checking should have been included in the first place, they feel obligated to provide a free alternative that developers can use instead of paying a 3rd party for a feature that should have been included in the first place.

  9. I agree, Grant. A stronger commercial component market is needed, and it will likely be very beneficial to Adobe in the long run. I’m behind you 100% when you say that Adobe needs to put more support behind these sorts of efforts and to try not to compete with products that are particularly strong.

    One problem is the community itself, though. Very few people are stepping up to start selling commercial components. I think it’s frustrating those in the know at Adobe, but they haven’t quite figured out how to encourage developers to become one of the first to try it.

  10. Hey, Grant. I’m a little confused by this post because we did give you advanced warning. Do you feel like it wasn’t enough? I even tried to get you access to the code early on, but because of legal issues, I wasn’t able to get it released in advance.

    Also, let me clarify what Squiggly is. It’s a free project which might be open-sourced and is not supported at all. It’s intended for projects that just need a couple of simple text inputs spell checked — projects that don’t generate revenue, and therefore can’t justify a commercial solution. Since SPL is a commercial and supported solution, I would recommend that commercial projects (that need support) go with SPL. That’s the message spelled out in Dan’s blog post here:

    I apologize if there’s been some misunderstanding, or if we weren’t as upfront as we should have been. Our intention is to fill a gap in the platform — not compete with our own customers and partners.


  11. Hi Christian,

    I got a few days advance notice. I appreciated the gesture, but it really wasn’t much better than nothing. My intent was not to make Adobe look worse in the situation, but I didn’t think mentioning it would help improve the appearance, and would just complicate the article. I also wasn’t entirely sure if you would want me to mention it. If you’d like I will edit the main article to include that information.

  12. Tricky situation.

    Hope I’m not making things worse…I would be ironic to get a contract from Adobe to cleanup their Squiggly at some point in the future 🙂

  13. The main vibe behind your post feels pretty much like when Adobe announced CoCoMo/AFCS and the FMS developers were upset about competing with Adobe. I can understand both sides of the issue, but for a company that seems to make pretty decent efforts to listen to their developer community, it does appear they take two steps back from time to time.

  14. I’m not clear on how SPL compares to the Adobe product that’s about to devour it. Are there any significant technical differences?

    What was Adobe’s motivation for knocking the SPL business out of your hands? Was it that Adobe felt like SPL wasn’t good enough? Was it that Adobe wanted to increase adoption of Flex by offering SPL for free?

    Anyway, I hope that Adobe adds the spelling dictionary as an Adobe-signed cached file (like the Flex framework is). This way I could be sure that the customer only downloads the dictionary once, regardless of browser cache settings.

  15. I think its likely a case of managed ineptitude and cluelessness, whereby people seeking credit for innovation manage the limited awareness and perception of those who approve how they spend their time.

  16. I couldn’t agree more. Didn’t they do the same thing or something similar to Degrafa? I think they partnered with Degrafa somewhat,but not sure how well Degrafa made out on the deal if at all?

    Nice Adobe. Macromedia was great about supporting its users and had great community and support.

  17. Grant,

    I contacted you on September 1st, and the project was released on the 22nd. I’d hoped to give you more notice, but that was the best I could do.

    Again, I really don’t think these projects compete. Squiggly is a free, unsupported project intended for free, unsupported applications. If you want to provide spell checking in a commercial solution, I would recommend using SPL.


  18. I understand where you are coming from Grant. I see competition as a good thing but when its competition from the people that control the platform, you dont have a chance. Adobe should be helping the companies trying to build a business on top of its platform. It happens alot too.

    It has happened to Joa twice:

    It happened with degrafa, and flex 4

    Again I understand Adobe is a software company, they must sell it to make money. I just think the $$$ to pissing of people leveraging your platform ratio could be balanced a bit more if they behaved a bit diferently.

  19. Grant,

    I understand your annoyance over the situation but you are selling a component that costs roughly half the price of Flash itself. I understand the man hours you’ve put in should be rewarded and you have had SPL up for sale for quite a period of time completely unchallenged in the marketplace. A potential open source solution benefits the whole community far more than a premium solution.

    I also feel that your attitude towards Adobe is a bit harsh. First you you said there was no contact, then when called on it you agreed there was a few days. Now we see that you were notified 3 weeks beforehand.

    I appreciate all the work you’ve put into the community, Grant I really do. I just feel like this must have hit you at the wrong time as it seems to have brought out, what reads like, a good deal of animosity in you.

  20. Sometimes I think Adobe doesn’t deserve half of what the community does for them.

  21. I think it is far not first and last such case. May be it all is partially connected to legal/business parts of NDA practices. Who knows.

    For me it all looks as if Flash currently is stuck between being and not being Open. Some parts of it all are very open like SWF format and Tamarin. Some like developing process, decision making on future of Flash, Flex and now Catalyst. I don’t think Adobe fully “gets it” in what and how it wants to do as I often see both good and bad examples of what you speak about but absolutely agree that I don’t hear/see Adobe promoting/motivating projects like say PaperVision3D. I remember reading how PV3D team was not informed/asked/consulted about FP10 3D features which probably is not wrong but Adobe did not do any visible polls/research with its developers about it… Felt like as you described they saw a demand and decided to fulfill it themselves without asking or even researching much on what developers writing projects like PV3D, Away3D, Alternativa really need to make their engines better. So in the end we have half done 3D features that did not help existing projects much and did not innovate that much on itself… Absolutely no clear intent behind it except for may be some business/marketing/advertisement intents.

    So in the end overall it never felt that community voice had much weight in Flash development. At least in a right way.

    From other side sometimes some hobby/for fun/experimental that was publicized at early stages and gathtered attention does get in. Or that “Adobe. Make a noise.” managed to push Adobe enough to hear the voice. In the end I think that Adobe does listen to community. It just that this process often is far from being transparent and often seems kind of without feedback loop like they observe and decide without asking. Still hear but do not ask. I know evangelists often do try to hear/observe/ask but I rarely seen/heard results.

    As for Silverlight or even whole .Net. I did not hear Microsoft promoting/using some third party libs that much aether so may be that’s not true cause of there being less commercial libs for Flash. It just that Sun/Microsoft approach to business applications seems different(longer history and more business centric). It probably has some roots for it in FP being open meaning hardships with closed sourced libs too.

  22. I humbly disagree.

    Everyone is talking about “Flash killers” now days. Although I don’t think there is an immediate threat of this happening, Adobe certainly needs to have a 10 year plan so-to-speak. Imagine if the next rev of Silverlight boasted a free, included spell checker. Although not hugely significant by itself, a few more features that “Flash doesn’t have” and all the sudden you start losing customers. Or even more likely, is that people start using HTML5 and a combination of other “non-proprietary” tools as an alternative to Flash. I think Adobe absolutely made the right move in adding this. It is something that they *should* have had anyway. You must know this.

    As for your forewarning, I do think you should have received some (but with an NDA). However, Christian Cantrell from Adobe claims he gave you three weeks notice, which seems reasonable to me, so you guys will have to work that out.

  23. Dan et al – please believe me that there is no animosity intended in this post. As much as it’s hard to believe, I really am not concerned about any lost revenue. SPL was a technical experiment that happily became a revenue stream, was much more successful than I expected, and has remained unchallenged for much longer than I would have expected.

    My intent is not to vent, or be bitter about this issue, rather it is to shed light on a potential problem which I have seen repeated by Adobe. If this was a one off example, it’s unlikely I would have mentioned it. There is the previously mentioned situation with Breeze, but also others I am familiar with but won’t cite because it’s not my place to do so (ie. not my projects).

    If Flash had a thriving component eco system, this would hardly have blipped. However when there are only a few examples of successful commercial libraries and Adobe competes with them instead of encouraging them, it is sending the wrong message.

    I wholeheartedly agree that if Adobe could bring something new to the table, it would make a lot more sense. For example, if they leveraged player functionality to support system level spell checking, I would actually be happy to see SPL die. Likewise, a community led OSS project would have been totally cool (and there have been a few of those), even with Adobe lending some support. What irritates me is Adobe spending resources that could be assigned to something more meaningful to compete with one of the few success stories in the commercial component space, especially being that they have already licensed my library for other projects.

    I apologize for the confusion on the dates. Christian did me a favour by telling me in advance, but I was very busy at the time and I truly did believe it was only a few days notice. Regardless, it was still just a notice that Squiggly was being released, it didn’t provide me with any chance to participate, collaborate, evaluate, or prepare.

    Again, the main thrust of this is that Adobe too frequently chooses to compete with its developers instead of collaborating or engaging with them. My point is not to complain about this issue, it is to educate, in the hopes that it helps foster a better environment for the development of commercial libraries. I’m not even that interested in this from the perspective of someone selling components, but as a developer that could regularly make use of high-quality, well supported, production-ready libraries.

    Of everyone, I am very familiar with the good (ex. Adobe buying gProject from us), and the bad (ex. Squiggly). It’s really dependent on the team and circumstances – a more consistent, developer oriented corporate culture would be wonderful.

  24. This is one of the many reasons to open source the Flash Player. Lets level the playing field. You can’t compete with a company that controls the platform. As a community we must wait for Adobe to move instead of the community driving the platform. Don’t get me wrong Adobe has done alot to keep the community involved.

  25. Campbell said, “It happened with degrafa, and flex 4”

    Actually, Degrafa was inspired by early previews of Flex 4, if I remember correctly. They started on the project knowing that Adobe’s version was coming eventually.

  26. @MichaelRamirez

    I absolutely agree. Until we get an open source Flash Player, we won’t see a level playing field.

    @gskinner I don’t know man. If Adobe is releasing an open source spell checking library, I’ll be the first one to jump on board. It’s simple: why pay $1000 for a spell checker when there’s a comparable one which is open source? Not that I disrespect the work you’ve done at all, on the contrary to be honest. It’s just the law of least resistance.

  27. It seems like the Adobe Exchange is an attempt at such a marketplace, but it’s woefully under-utilized. It seems to me they could give it more attention and distinguish it from the rest of the site, something like, where the website is more modern, and continually updated.

    I’m all for more commercial marketplaces. Grant, we need to you to take the lead. =D


  28. The fact that Adobe in the past acquired design/development companies should have triggered a few alarm bells. They are not competing just with component developers but with each and every user of their tools. Look of what happened with MTV or the NYT Reader made in AIR, it is a classic example of a company that bite the hand feeding it.

  29. I’ll comment then read all the other comments… hopefully this won’t repeat anything.

    I tend to agree with many points here–but I think it’s the clear and obvious direction of Adobe to provide some “services” besides just “products”. If they have are are doing something like building in custom support to a new player–just for their solution I’d be much more motivated to support your point of view. Such un-level playing field behavior really gets me going–and will prove to a minor disaster every time it happens (see history of screen sharing for one extreme example).

    But, in this case is it just a pure software product? I think the general mode of operation for many companies in that capacity is to simply get bought out. Which is fine if that’s what you’re into, but it’s not the only model.

    The whole thing about “plugins” is interesting–and not a new topic. For example, VB had (has?) a real market for such 3rd party items. And, Director had a heyday of sorts with people making (and take BuddyAPI) practically retiring from sales–from what I understand.

    The thing is, is this just a reasonable addition to Flash or a stand-alone product they sell? I suppose if they incorporate the cost into the upgrade cost of the next rev it’s no diff.

    It is tricky because in this case your customer is Adobe’s customer. Sure, you’re providing something they’ve so far left out. And, maybe they go around stealing every great idea they see–and like you say, that by itself is not a problem. The fact it’s from the inside–to me–is less of an issue than it is to you. But I agree it means Adobe is making it clear where they stand. To be frank: a competitor.

    I hope that doesn’t sound bitter or antagonistic (to anyone).

    My summary: if they’re just using Adobe tools off the shelf… no biggie (not that I’m saying it’ll make Adobe a bunch of friends). If they are using insider access then “no fair”.. and it sucks. By the way, even if the devs of squiggler-maker didn’t direct the Flash player team’s every move–there’s indirect influences due to the fact they’re under one roof.

  30. Emanuele – I’m not sure about the NYT Reader (I think it was done entirely in-house, but that makes sense since it is entirely based on features that were in-development at the time). However I can tell you that while the MTV Jackassworld Pranks game was headed by Adobe XD it was developed by my team at Automata Studios and the animations were done by WeFail.

  31. @Christian Cantrell, exactly how is the investment of resources handled inside Adobe for a project that doesn’t “generate revenue and therefore can’t justify a commercial solution” ? I’m sincerely interested. Don’t you apply some kind of value for building and releasing it? I mean, I don’t reckon it was just a few devs working during their free-time.

  32. @Josh Tynjala

    For the record. Degrafa was conceived out of need and not at all with prior knowledge of what was to come. Ely contacted us after we had publicly announced that Degrafa was in the works. There was no public knowledge of an mxml based Graphics api coming to flex beforehand.

    As such I need to respond to other comments. Adobe was forthright with the team at the time they learned of Degrafa’s existence. After which there was no hiding of what was going to happen.

    However the contact with Adobe was not fruitful in the sense of where both teams felt it needed to go, beyond some contributions the degrafa team made to help with flex 4 graphics classes. The result was that both projects continued in separate directions despite some overlap in intent, allowing the Degrafa team to continue innovating and the Flex team to meet their Adobe-tooling oriented goals.

    While it was frustrating to see a partial duplication of our efforts by Adobe, we can see the reason for their more specialized approach to flex 4 graphics and continue to hope that there may be future opportunities to work together for the good of the community.



  33. Jason – see, that is more inline with the type of contact I would have hoped for versus a last minute heads up. SPL has been out for 2 years, and I doubt the team working on Squiggly was unaware of it when they started the project. Adobe had nothing to lose by involving me in a free OSS project under NDA, but we both potentially had a lot to gain. The worst case scenario would have been us getting more advance notice (which wouldn’t hurt Adobe given this is not commercial), and Adobe getting some valuable early feedback. The best case would have been that we would have come to an arrangement that was mutually beneficial. Either way, it would have sent a better message to the developer community, and we wouldn’t be having this discussion now (though I still think it would be a beneficial conversation to have).

  34. I’m a bit curious why other commenters think that that the Flash Player needs to be opened in order to “level the playing field.” As far as I know, Adobe is not building components that leverage internal knowledge of the player, nor are they building binary-only components created with custom, in-house tools.

    In other words, the playing field seems level enough. Squiggly doesn’t do anything none of the rest of us couldn’t have done years ago (as evidenced by the fact that Grant did it, and did it even better!).

    More to the point of Grant’s post, I tend to agree with Christian (from Adobe): Squiggly is an unsupported, free, low-powered solution. SPL is a high-quality, supported, commercial solution. If ever I was going to consider paying for a spell-checking solution — and the cost of SPL means it definitely wouldn’t be an impulse purchase — I’d go with SPL in a heartbeat.

    Grant is absolutely right that Adobe has to be conscious of their role as platform developer and should avoid damaging their most successful developers by unfairly competing with them. I just completely disagree that this is an example of that.

    In fact, I think the release of Squiggly would help SPL: with Squiggly, more apps can have some degree of spell checking, which will in turn raise the expectations of users that Flash apps should have spell checking, which will in turn increase the sales of SPL as any reasonable commercial developer will want the higher quality and support that SPL offers.

    Finally, I’d most heartedly agree with the other commenters that the *real* solution is for Adobe to support native spell-checking in text fields by leveraging/supporting either OS-provided mechanisms (on OSX) or browser-provided mechanisms (basically all of the modern ones these days, I believe). Then Squiggly/SPL can be fallbacks for those remaining contexts where native support is unavailable.

  35. @Tony Gilbert in fact, this example does not sound like a case of an un-level playing field. In fact this was part of my point.

    However, there are examples where it was insider:

    –screen sharing (where that’s added to the plugin)

    –back-door octo-shape plugin (which is a “partner” thing that–as far as I know–is not a process that’s public).

    I don’t mean to confuse the matter. My point was… if Adobe isn’t doing one of those kinds of tricks, then I don’t totally agree with Grant.

  36. Having a brief look at the offering of Squiggly and having used and recommended the purchase SPL (OEM Version) in commercial projects, I can see how Squiggly helps the very simple projects out there get up and running quickly. There is no comparison IMHO because it is targeting small development projects and not anyone seriously building a real world Global Commercial Application.

    I can understand this could effect the compiled version’s sales of the SPL offering but I doubt it would hurt the Source code sales. Adobe IMHO cannot match’s level of Customer Service that I have received from the company, Free Upgrade offers, and Flexibility of being able to customize the code to meet the stringent requirements of Real World Applications.

    As far as the Price is concerned there is no way you could develop a better product with the man hours you would have to pay a team to develop a similar quality product as the SPL offering. It is definitely worth every penny and it will save the project a amazing amount of development time.

    With all that said I agree with everything Grant has said above.

  37. It’s a bad idea to create commercial components for the flash platform because that platform itself is closed source. Adobe can, and will, add whatever special secret sauce like the flash player extensions used in breeze to compete with the products and apps their community is creating. So its an uphill battle, you will always lose and be dissapointed if you go that route. The same is happening in the apple app store, anything that has the potential to be a commercial success, and kill apple’s own apps, will be rejected by apple. I choose for creating high quality open source and then cash in when doing consulting work. Healthy ecosystems dont get created with closed source software, just as free water and air keeps this planet going. I actually think that Adobe is doing the right thing by releasing libraries as open source, no matter if there is a commercial alternative out there. Imagine if they didnt, it would mean the whole community would have to buy your library or build their own from scratch. What youre actually proposing is harmful for the community and flash platform, and im glad they made this component available for everyone to improve and use. I mean, you would probably be frustrated as well if you created a flex clone, and suddenly adobe open sourced flex (2), meaning everyone could create great applications. I would have no respect for any developer that tries to block/criticize such a move by adobe. It would be selfish and bad for the community aka the flash platform.

  38. You are so right Grant!

    It’s not a level playing field at all.

    For us – commercial component developers – the Flash platform isn’t inviting at all.

    A few things Adobe could do to help:

    – Some (real) way to protect our components & IP

    – We would like to put our components into the player cache!

    – An (Adobe lead) open market place for commercial components, actively promoted by Adobe

    – Don’t compete with developers by keeping info/player features out of reach of the developer community. E.g. release SWF specs early (e.g. during player beta’s), give developers the opertunity to use the player cache.

    For us – professional Flash designers – we would love to see a thriving commercial market place with a lot of (competing) components.

    Both OSS as commercial licensed components have their pros and cons. Depending on the project at hand we would choose either the OSS or the commercial alternatives but so far we found that the commercial component market is very, very small, low to med quality – with a few exceptions – and very scattered.

    So Adobe could do a lot better when it comes to making component developers enthusiastic about developing for the Flash developers.

    Maybe that MAX 2009 will bring some good news on this front?

  39. Grant,

    I’ll chime in here, since I’ve experienced a similar situation. My company spent a good amount of effort creating a commercial media framework. Our main goal was to provide a hole for a significant gap that we saw in the community. With considerable experience in that realm of development, and not seeing it progress, I finally figured we needed to do something about it. After a few months of releasing it, Adobe announced their own.

    When you look at both what your company and ours did, it is debatable if we were just filling in holes that Adobe should have filled in the first place. Take the IPhone for example. All of the photo based apps out there are doing so good, because Apple hasn’t done their job. It is obvious at some point Apple will come in and add in all of the elements of those apps natively. So did we just chose a product that is more of a “feature” product in that same vein that would get filled eventually? If that is true, were we just naive in product choice? However, what we struggle with these days is what does not constitute “feature” products to Adobe. We have lots of things we’d like to build commercially, but have to debate whether or not Adobe is going to tread that water or not. For example, would Adobe create a mockups app to compete with Peldi? Not knowing, makes it really tough, because then you steer away from developing things for mainstream developers and then focus on offbase niche markets.

    There is no real component market like other platforms experience, so its really hard to gauge or know how to approach this market and be successful.

  40. Grant,

    On a second note about the component community and your underlying thought, I agree. It seems that people that do put out considerable effort to forward the Flash platform and potentially build a business on advancing it are almost invisible (minus the elixir components). It would be nice to get some help and in cases where we are being “replaced” be able to fully be heard/contribute.

  41. As you mentioned in your post, Grant, this is nothing new for Adobe. They screwed Chafic and his company back in the day with their components and they lost any goodwill they had from me when they built/released RiaForge, instead of supporting OSFlash. Adobe’s so-called support of its community doesn’t appear to extend beyond buyinh sales pitch slots (sorry, I mean keynotes) at conferences and user group meetings. Otherwise, they’ll happily steal your ideas, release competing products, etc., because they want to _own_ anything interesting that’s Flash-related, not share or support the community (in fact, based on my experience with OSFlash, I’ll go as far as to say that Adobe is _scared_ of its community unless it can – again that word – *control* it as an extension of its marketing efforts as they’re trying to do with the user groups.).

    As much as I don’t like Microsoft, they actually understand the concept of sharing and are where they are today not because of great products but a truly remarkable economy that they’ve managed to build.

    Personally, I’m sick and tired of the “oh we’re so supportive of the community” BS from Adobe. You’re not, and everyday you’re adopting the worst aspects of a Microsoft culture. I’m much happier developing for the iPhone where at least the company involved makes no false pretenses that it gives a rat’s posterior about you but at least provides you with an ecosystem that you can contribute to and reward from.

    Apologies if there are any typos or weird characters in the comment, I pecked this out on my iPhone.

  42. Sorry Christian, to say that Squiggly does not compete with Grant’s product because it’s free and unsupported just sums up the lack of understanding on Adobe’s part up for me.

    My thoughts about this topic are well documented elsewhere. I won’t even mention Connect, FMS and AFCS – oh whoops it slipped out.

  43. Aral – I’d respectfully disagree. In my experience, Adobe does try hard to work with developers. They make some pretty big mistakes (to be clear, I don’t think Squiggly is a *big* mistake, just an illustrative one), but I think in general they are genuinely interested in empowering their developers.

    Unfortunately, they don’t have the legacy of developer culture that companies like MS have. They are in the developer relations adolescence, if you will, starting to figure things out for themselves, but still making some really bad decisions on occasion. 🙂

  44. The main issue I see in creating a marketplace for flash/flex components is protection. SWC files are too easy to pass around and too easy to decompile. It’s quite a risk for an individual or especially a large company to throw their commercial components out there and not expect them to make their way around the internet.

    In working with the team, we’ve been working on creating just such a marketplace although it’s been back-burnered just a bit. The basic design is this… SWC files will be encrypted and licensed using nitro-lm. At compile -time, using a custom nitro-lm compiler extension (flex-4), your users will verify that they have paid for the component. The component is then re-encrypted before being included in your SWF file and allowed to run without licensing in production.

    The reason this project has been back-burnered is two-fold. First is a lukewarm response from current large component vendors. Second is this lack of community excitement for such a marketplace product. In order to convince management to keep pushing the rope on this project, it either needs some large component vendors to sign-on, or it needs to have the community beating down our door to finish creating it. Feel free to create a discussion thread on our google group and maybe we can get this project re-prioritized up the stack.

  45. Adding in a spell check feature is not a new idea. The fact that Adobe finally added it suggests they realized it was something that was needed and missing. Certainly Grant’s team saw that, and created one. The real issue here is not even what the feature is, and in fact, as Grant has suggested, is not a great example of the underlying issue.

    The real issue seems to be the message Adobe is sending to the developer community… and it is not a message that seems isolated. They have been pushing the bandwagon as “Flash as Platform”. They want people to join and develop great things for their cause. So why are they creating a scenario where Adobe the giant corporation is competing with the developers who they claim to encourage? If the app in question had been something more unique I would be as peeved as Aral.

    Adobe perhaps should comes to terms with developer relations. Sometimes it does feel like they are the giant ocean liner mowing a straight path through pretty convoluted waters. It takes considerable time and effort, not to mention money to develop an idea into a usable application or service. If Adobe wants people to continually pull their wagon, those people need to be understood to the Adobe machine as a valuable resource…. dissatisfaction ingrained too deep will result in brilliant people moving away from the Adobe’s desired direction. I assume they understand that those people are a finite resource.

  46. @Tony Gilbert >Squiggly doesn’t do anything none of the rest of us couldn’t have done years ago (as evidenced by the fact that Grant did it, and did it even better!).

    Very true. There was very little desire to add spell checking into Flash Apps until recently. I demoed a spell checker that did spell check as you type, suggested spelling, etc back in 2004 at FlashForward. I couldn’t release it because it was developed on company time, but the concept was shown to be very viable. There wasn’t enough interest either from Macromedia or other developers to make one available to the public for several years.

    I’m with Grant. Adobe has been good to the Flash developer base in most cases, but this isn’t one of them.

  47. Sorry if this is a bit self promotional, but for those who said they are interested in commercial Flex components, check us out at . We’re still new, but hope to exist as a commercial vendor in the space.

    You can contact me with any questions:

  48. I’ve just run into something very similar to this with a product I produced called Sharify. It is a system to allow developers to add a try/buy mechanism to their AIR apps. One of the less widely reported announcements from MAX was Shibuya which is a product from Adobe which does exactly the same.

    Like you, I am not upset about competition but rather about the fact that it is Adobe who are competing when they should be encouraging people to build tools to improve their platform. And more than that I’m upset that they didn’t bother to tell me whenever they started building their service as they were definitely well aware of mine.

    I’ve written some more detailed thoughts on my blog:

  49. The thing is, there are areas where Adobe does unjustly compete with its own offerings, and areas where it doesn’t.

    I see Adobe competing with its own community when its frameworks/products rely on an undocumented/propietary Flash plugin like the Connect screensharing plugin. And in some cases I see Adobe attempting to correct competition by proprietary products (my interpretation) by releasing or opening the spec for things like AMF.

    See, from a developer’s viewpoint who is not the least interested in selling plugins, I don’t see Adobe’s Squiggly framework competing against Grant’s SPL in any way. That would be like saying that the default Flex Charting components compete against the iLOG Elixir components.

    Squiggly is an open source, unsupported framework which is probably not going to be enterprise-robust. And SPL is a commercial, well-documented, supported and licensed product.

    And that’s a good thing. I am sure as heck not going to plunk down 1K on a single component for a personal project or a low budget/pro bono project, but I’d use Squiggly, even if I know it isn’t as good. And other times, I don’t want to build a component from some cookbook or blog post, or even an open source library: I need something with all the bells a whistles, robust and efficient, something that will save me days of coding, and allow me to pass on the saving to my client in hiring me for weeks to develop that one component, so I’ll advise the client to purchase it, no ifs ands or buts.

    I agree that Adobe often competes with its own developer community, and that’s not cool. But in this case, saying that Squiggly competes with SPL is comparing apples to oranges, even if its a good segway into discussing developer relations 😉

  50. I’ll just add to the record of what Jason said. Degrafa was built before we had spoken publicly about our plans for introducing graphics into MXML. The feature had been under development at Adobe for some time, but the two were developed independently.

    Everything else Jason said is accurate as well. There was lots of open and honest discussion between the flex and degrafa teams once we were aware of the project, but in the end we agreed that there was a role for both libraries to continue to co-exist. And I stand by that — I continue to be impressed by the Degrafa project.

    Ely Greenfield

    Adobe, Flex SDK.

  51. Chuck Frazier May 1, 2010 at 10:11am

    I’m not a developer. I’m a layperson that hires Flex developers so my perspective may be a bit different. But I’m very torn about Adobe’s approach to business. On one hand, they provide some invaluable open source tools and frameworks. But it seems (in my novice opinion) that once they release these, they lack a cohesive game plan that will promote (and yes, exploit) the developer community. I feel they should carefully study Apple’s approach.

    I wholeheartedly sympathize with Grant’s frustration. I don’t know how many times a guy has to repeat “this ain’t about the money” before people finally hear that. He’s simply saying that Adobe needs a robust marketplace for developers (you guys) to sell your wares. Look at what’s happened to IPhone and Apps in just two years.

    People like me want robust tools that continue to push the envelope. Let competition reign! But when someone like Grant creates something (akin to an IPhone app) and the developer creates a freebie, it kills the future of an open marketplace. Just imagine if Apple started a new division aimed at creating free apps that would compete against the apps developed by 3rd-party IPhone developers? The marketplace would begin to die. So Grant’s simply lobbying for what Apple already has.

    IMO, he should be pushed to the front of a Developer Parade and all you guys should be storming the Adobe gates demanding the same thing.

    Now, here’s why I’m torn. Because I’ve spent a TON of money getting my application developed since most of it was created from scratch. The fact that I couldn’t buy these things off the shelf puts me in a distinct advantage over guys not willing to invest the money and time to do that. So the businessman side of me says “Don’t change Adobe!”

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