A Glimpse Of The Future?

The current Yahoo Toolbar debacle gives me serious concerns about the future for the distribution of the Flash Player. I've been happy to see the development of the Flash player remain under the control of Macromedia - if any serious challenger started to gain traction, it would create a compatibility nightmare. Think about the way Microsoft's JVM effectively killed client-side Java.

The Flash File Format specification isn't a specification that has been born perfectly formed and delivered from the loins of the W3C - it has grown through 7 versions and there is a lot of backward compatibility arcana there. Frankly, I think it would be an impossible task for anyone to write a Flash Player that maintained the same level of backward compatibility as Macromedia's player. And I don't think there is any commercial reason to do it except to destroy the platform.

Macromedia controls the distribution of the Flash Player quite tightly. If you're delivering on CDROM, you've got to enter into a license agreement to deliver an installer with your product. But that's a small nuisance as compared to what happens if you distribute Flash on the internet. You can't provide a downloadable installer from your website, you've got to send the user to Macromedia to get the player. Macromedia makes no guarantees about the way it will distribute the player. By bundling Yahoo Toolbar, it has reminded me of it's ability to change the way it distributes the player. It has reminded me that distributing Flash on the internet leaves me reliant on the benevolence of Macromedia.

Macromedia is a publicly traded corporation, it is legally mandated to make the largest amount of profit it can. It is not a charity and benevolence is not a long-term strategy. Whenever it figures that it is in it's long term financial interests to bundle spyware, adware, shareware and whatever else with its Flash player, Shockwave player, Authorware player, it will.

I doubt this is the right moment for Macromedia to embark on this journey - this is most likely related to some short term financial target. I expect the shares will get some short term boost from the partnership and then could sink back by as much as 30%-50%. I'll buy some when they are back at $20.

What does Macromedia need to do to recover? It has to dump Yahoo, apologise, and give guarantees about the future distribution of the Flash player.

Some other bloggers on this -
Open Letter to Macromedia - Resolve this Yahoo fiasco
Macromedia Madness - Flash gets cement shoes?
Flash Player7 w/ Y! WTF?!
The issue of Flash Player bundling: A matter of trust

Posted by Alexander at March 4, 2005 04:29 PM

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