Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Will Day stay committed to web standards under Adobe's ownership?

I JUST heard about Adobe's acquisition of Day Software and have to admit my first reaction was total disappointment. I always admired Day's commitment to architecture and standards. Day is one of the few upper upper tier web content management companies to stay focused on the web — not just as a place to dump files but as medium for information exchange and creativity. David Nuescheler and Roy Fielding seemed to have a vision for how systems could openly interoperate through lightweight architectures like REST and standards like the JCR. Day has also been a great contributor to the Java community by pushing lighter weight technologies like OSGi and server-side JavaScript to keep Java relevant in a trend toward dynamically typed, scripting languages like PHP, Python, and Ruby. Day promoted this vision through the products they sold and also by contributing to open source projects.

I feel the complete opposite about Adobe. Adobe seems more interested in conquering the web than improving it. While Adobe has contributed several technologies that lowered barriers to entry, I think the overall net impact has been negative. Yes we have more content on the web thanks to Adobe, but much of that content is locked in Adobe's PDF and Flash formats where it is less accessible (and maintainable) than plain old DHTML. Adobe customers tend to overuse Adobe technologies like PDF for online forms when HTML would have done quite well. Flash-based navigation is also a problem; I can't tell you how many restaurant websites I have been where you can't link to a specific page because the whole site is one Flash movie. As a web consumer, how many hours have I waited for Acrobat reader to install/upgrade plugins (which further degrade performance) before allowing me to read PDFs that I clicked on? Expert tip: disable the PDFViewer plugin for Safari. Don't even get me started on DreadWeaver.

As you can see, my frustration with Adobe has been building for quite some time. It felt good to let that out. I haven't talked to David or Roy about Adobe so I don't know their opinion of Adobe before or after the merger talks started. I hope that Adobe permits them (even better, supports them) to continue their good work in web-based architectures. More likely Adobe is buying Day for its CRX repository and CQ5's workflow and digital asset management (DAM) functionality to connect creative teams using Adobe Creative Suite (Why couldn't they have just bought vjoon or WoodWing?) If this is the case, I hope Adobe will invest more in web publishing than they did JRun.