Adobe did it again. I’m talking about the twenty billion dollar deal to buy Figma of course. They took over their competitor and I’m pretty sure they are determined to destroy it. “Why the pessimism?” one could ask and I would gladly answer: “Because they do it all the time. I have seen it one too many times.”

It started with Macromedia Freehand. When Adobe bought it in 2005 for $ 3.4 billion. And Freehand was a good piece of software. Most professionals thought that it was better than Adobe’s Illustrator. It had tons of features that took years for Illustrator to implement, like multiple pages in one document. Up till today Illustrator is lacking the precision when working with vectors that made Freehand such fun to use. Freehand had a huge fan base. But instead of merging both their rivalling products, Freehand and Illustrator, Adobe just shut it down.

And then they got Macromedia Flash. I know, I know, it’s a good thing it is gone by now, but why is that? Macromedia’s Flash (which was part of the same acquisition as Freehand) was a perfectly okay product. It equipped the internet with possibilities not seen before. And those Flash-websites were lightweight and performant. It opened an entirely new chapter to interface design. Just now we seem to have reached a point where designers are in the position to think as freely with new technologies like Java Script and Canvas as they were with Flash. 

When Adobe got hold of Flash, they didn’t hesitate to overhaul the scripting language two times within a few years, making it nearly impossible to stay in the loop. At the same time they failed to enhance the features already present in Flash, like 3D and audio, or to develop much needed improvements like a search engine readable data format, responsiveness to screen sizes and of course security. It was obvious that Adobe just didn’t care, that they only bought Macromedia to make it disappear.

My assumption for the future of Figma is that it will lose its momentum and will find itself in a dead end within a few years. Adobe won’t be able to seamlessly integrate it into its portfolio and their own products will become better than what’s left of Figma. The opportunities Figma held for a diverse and innovative web development will vanish.

And that is just not good for the web.

Why doesn’t Adobe just face the competition

Why doesn’t Adobe just face the competition, embrace the challenge? They could easily improve their own products to simply be better than these newcomers. It would just be a matter of resources. Imagine Adobe would have taken these twenty billion dollars and hired developers from that. If they hired real good senior developers for 250 $ per hour and let them work 250 days a year (weekends off and some days vacation) they could still pay a team of 1,000 people for 40 years. How much innovation could that harvest!?

How good could Adobe products become? And let’s face it: there’s plenty of room for improvement. Just to mention some ideas:

  • Why does each software of the Creative Cloud have different keyboard shortcuts? Why do I have to remember “send to lowest layer” for each of their products individually. Why can’t I simply edit all shortcuts in one place and check a “synchronise” box.
  • Why can’t I drag Photoshop or Illustrator files into Adobe Experience Designer. Embed them as PNG or SVG files and let me edit the source file on demand. And, starting from here, why can’t I just use all proprietary Adobe file formats within one another? It’s their own world, they could just make it happen.
  • Why do these fancy Photoshop Neural Filters feel like it’s 1999? They invented a disturbingly unfamiliar interface for these and the processing takes ages as it’s done in the cloud. Anybody remember “Kai’s Powertools” from 1992?
  • Why is it so hard to work cooperatively in all their products. It’s easily done with Visual Studio Code (and Figma of course). 
  • What the heck is Adobe Edge Animate?
  • What is the purpose of Photoshop anyway these days? Is it a software for photographers, for painters and digital artists, for designers? There’s just too much functions stacked upon each other. 

What would be a better way?

Adobe should clean up their portfolio, first thing. Then they should streamline their interface design and make it consistent across all products. They should make all their software interoperable and make it feel like one family. 

Then they can begin to surprise us with cool stuff like Neural Filters and that awesome watercolour effect of Adobe Fresco (which, by the way, is unrivalled by more successful competitors like ProCreate).

I’m sure they don’t need 1,000 top notch developers for that. Just a vision of what type of brand they want to be. Oh, I forgot, they already seem to have made that decision.