Benevolent Dictator

More and more Macromedia is defining the slimeball old school company that we all love to hate.
I'm a bit worried today by Marc Canter's perspective on the company he founded (Macromind, later to become Macromedia). Frankly the Yahoo toolbar fiasco worried me a lot. Marc speaks ominously of Flash's 'hooks' that only Macromedia can use. I'm all too aware that if Macromedia abuse these hooks then they put the whole Flash platform at risk and with it many livliehoods that depend up on it.

Update: It seems fair to add that Marc Canter's perspective may be more coloured by his involvement with Laszlo, than as a founder. I don't know the details, but he appears to have a grievance about the way Flex competed with Laszlo.

Posted by Alexander at April 1, 2005 11:48 AM

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He's a strange one, alright.

I tried to figure out his "secret hooks" line too, but it's vague enough to alarm yet without being specific enough to resolve.

My best guess is that it's his shorthand for "The Sorenson codec is not described in the SWF docs" or something like that, but if you turn up a live addressable issue I'd like to escalate it, thanks.


Posted by: John Dowdell at April 2, 2005 01:12 AM

Hi JD,

Thanks for dropping by. I'm assuming that the backdoor hooks he's talking about refer to the ability for Macromedia to use the Flash update mechanism to silently install new software. I'm sure you'd say "Macromedia would never do that!" I'm worried about what MM would do *if* it were to turn into a 'slimeball' company. MM is a relatively cheap company to pick up for any other company that wants it's software instantly installed on virtually every desktop in the world. (like, um Yahoo)


Posted by: Alexander McCabe at April 2, 2005 10:29 AM

Sorry for the delay, Alexander... after a browser crash I I got lost, and found my way back here only while researching something else!

First, the guy really should say what he means, would make this all a whole lot simpler, huh...? ;-)

I caught him up on a separate conversation this weekend in his weblog, and he did go "undocumented backdoor" and "secret audio".

For the first I gave him the documentation links, and for the second I asked for specifics. (Best guess might be that he wants to create Nelly-Moser audio without licensing that technology from Nelly-Moser like Macromedia does; not sure though.) No followup yet.

I'm still eager to learn what "secret backdoor hooks" might mean in his view -- if someone has a concern, then by definition it is a real concern. I want to learn what he's alluding to.

But just now I did a Google search on "canter backdoor flash" and pulled up *far* more hits than I anticipated... I think I need to bring this up on my blog, because many people may be quite concerned about what he's saying.

tx, jd/mm

Posted by: John Dowdell at April 12, 2005 04:33 AM

Just a thought, but might he be talking about the mechanism via which Central is distributed? As far as I'm aware, this is something that isn't documented and might be considered somewhat of a backdoor.

I agree with JD though - the guy should say what he means.

Posted by: Steve Webster at April 12, 2005 05:09 PM

I think that the Central installer uses what I think is fair to call a 'backdoor hook'. I guess it's easier to dash off the phrase 'secret backdoor hooks' rather than go into a detailed technical explanation. However I'm surprised that the phrase causes confusion - I knew exactly what he was talking about straight away.

'Secret' is maybe a strong word to use, but I suggest that faced with the question "Which companies have the technical ability to install new software onto your system without your knowledge?" - most users wouldn't know, smarter ones will say 'Microsoft', but I don't think that many among even the Slashdot brigade would say 'Macromedia'.

I'm also interested in his claim that Macromedia has access to 'improved audio features' which he knows 'for sure'. This suggests a new, undocumented audio codec inside the player. JD asked for specifics on this - I'd like to see them too as it is difficult to believe that there might be a secret audio codec within the Flash player without some back up.

Posted by: Alexander McCabe at April 12, 2005 06:00 PM

"I knew exactly what he was talking about straight away."

How do you know that you know what he was referring to? (Seems more like projection to me.)

If we're talking about "Is the ability to install the Central shell unfair?" then that's one issue that we could discuss. I just want to nail *WHAT* the guy is talking about before I start replying. (Tellingly, he leaves these questions unanswered in his own weblog followup.)

(My best guess on "audio" is the Nelly-Moser voice codec, which third-party developers would have to similarly license, but again we're back to getting Canter to a functional statement.)


Posted by: John Dowdell at April 14, 2005 05:48 AM

When I read "Seems like projection to me", I'm not exactly sure what you mean. I think maybe you mean that I'm projecting my own fears onto someone else's words. But when I read "secret backdoor hooks", it just didn't occur to me that I didn't know the meaning. What can I say? Sometimes I'm confused by words, sometimes I'm not. None of us can ever be certain that we've got the right meaning.

I agree with you though, Marc has made statements that are likely to cause FUD - you've asked for clarification - he should clarify.

Posted by: Alexander McCabe at April 14, 2005 09:48 AM