By Jared Rypka-Hauer
In my previous article, I mentioned that I'd had a chance to catch up with Bruce Chizen, then CEO of Adobe, on the conference floor at MAX, and get some insight on the motivation behind the acquisition of Macromedia, so it seemed reasonable that the next article would be a continuation of that same idea. To do that, I needed more time with Bruce... which, considering that I'm virtually unknown in the industry press, didn't seem terribly likely.
On the other hand, ask and ye shall receive.
So I sent Bruce an email telling him that I'd like to follow up on our talk at MAX and ask him some questions about ColdFusion's place at Adobe, about the future of the platform, and about why Adobe seems to be so committed to its success when (if you take Computerworld seriously) it's one of the top 10 dying languages in the world. And, almost as quickly as my Mac said,
"WHOOSH, it's been sent", I forgot about it. That is, until the next afternoon.
What can this be? An email in my inbox... from Bruce himself? Whoa.
"Dear Jared, let me have my people call you to set something up. I'm in meetings next week, so it won't be immediately, but you'll hear from them."
OK. Wow. This is not a common occurrence in my life. That is, I don't often send email to the leaders of any of the top five software companies in the world, let alone expect to receive a reply. Kevin Lynch did respond to a happy birthday email I sent him once, but that little exchange didn't lead to a phone call, to an article, to anything. It was just plain nice. This, on the other hand, was big. I'm not a
"real reporter"... I'm essentially a blogger with the guts to ask for info from the boss. At least that's how I see myself. How would I do this without looking like an idiot, or worse, an amateur?
So to make a long story short, in late November last year, I heard from Bruce's folks (turns out, when he has his people call your people, the ones that call are actually Adobe PR, and they sometimes
"sit in" on phone calls like this one. It's kinda creepy, but also sort of cool). Bruce was, as usual, very pleasant and personable, and most importantly, surprisingly passionate about ColdFusion!
There are certain questions we're all itching to ask the executives in charge of ColdFusion's future. One of them has been around since, well, Allaire owned the product: Is ColdFusion safe with Adobe, or are the rumors true? Is it a dying platform? Bruce's very direct reply sort of took me off guard:
"We're extremely excited about ColdFusion 8! It's Adobe's first complete release and we've invested heavily in it. All our senior executives are very excited about ColdFusion. In fact, it's integral to our Enterprise Platform plans."
He went on to tell me that,
"in fact, ColdFusion is poised to have its biggest quarter since Adobe took over the reins from Macromedia." To the financial press, something like this is golden, but to the tech press? Is this techie-titillating news? Not really. Geeky and technically brilliant? No. But still, incredibly significant. Why? Because it means the platform is growing. It means that sales are continuing to climb. It means that so long as this trend continues, ColdFusion's biggest fans will continue to be none other than Adobe's executives (whose very job is to avoid killing extremely profitable products).
And just what will it take to continue this trend? Nothing more than for the ColdFusion development team and Adobe's marketing engine to continue doing what they're already doing. The fact is that there haven't been any massive changes to the overall structure of the team or the platform in years... the only difference is the backing of the fifth largest software company in the world. Granted,
"the only difference" is a bit of an understatement, but really, the status quo will continue to drive the platform unless Adobe tries to change it and mess things up in the process.
My next question to Bruce went something like this:
"Why, Bruce? Why is Adobe so excited about ColdFusion and committed to its growth and support?" My point was that half the world seems to think that ColdFusion's current owner is out to end the product, kill it off, get rid of it, send it to the dustbin of history, and, in general, mess up my career plans. And yet, at every turn, ColdFusion has been a best-selling, market-changing, edge-pushing product that has done nothing but grow since it was first released 12 years ago... so how could the whole world have it so wrong when Adobe (at least from my perspective) has it so right? What could be keeping Adobe so interested in the technology?
Bruce's answer was just as straightforward this time as the last.
"We see ColdFusion as being tightly married to Flex, AJAX and AIR. We understand that ColdFusion is a powerful Rapid Application Development platform in its own right, but there's a great deal more at stake here than just what you can build with ColdFusion. From our perspective, there is no other platform in existence that can be used to build powerful, flexible backends for Rich Internet Applications as quickly and competently as can be done with ColdFusion. It will support any RIA technology, be it Flex, Flash, AJAX or AIR. It's really, from our perspective, the glue that holds everything else together."
Meanwhile, in the trenches, Adam Lehman, Adobe Platform Evangelist, said this in a recent comment on the team blog at alagad.com:
ColdFusion developers defined the Rich Internet Application back in 2001 with ColdFusion MX and Flash Remoting. People thought we were crazy... Flash wasn't for building applications, it was for stupid web cartoons and skip intros! Now, everyone and their mothers are picking up Flex and sweating our style. The fact is, our community has been defining the web since its inception and we continue to do so.
Now I don't know about you, but I think that there's a great deal of pro-ColdFusion energy emanating from Adobe's top execs, and it's because they're getting the message from the ColdFusion team and sharing the excitement. It makes a great deal of sense, though, because from Adobe's perspective they've been deeply involved with the internet since its inception, via products like PDF and Photoshop/Illustrator, and now they want to see some recognition for that. Further, by capitalizing on their proximity to the heart of the internet, they truly stand a solid chance of significantly influencing its future. The key to Adobe's strategy, to being a significant player in the future of the web, is having the right variety of the right products... and ColdFusion is at the top of that list.
Essentially, Bruce is saying the same thing as Adam: ColdFusion has been here since the beginning, and has always helped shape the future. Bruce, though, goes on to say that Adobe sees ColdFusion as one of their change-driving engines and therefore, ColdFusion has Adobe's full support. From their perspective, ColdFusion has helped define the internet for the developer since 1995 and there's no reason to expect that to stop... so the question becomes,
"How has ColdFusion done this and how can it continue?"
The core of ColdFusion's success is in the ability of ColdFusion customers to get their message and tools online quickly and easily. From the independent developer to the Fortune 500 enterprise, ColdFusion has been used to successfully implement online applications by profitable ventures over and over again... that's how it grows. Simply put, ColdFusion grows when businesses successfully use it for its intended purpose: building web applications.
So success breeds success and, while there's no shortage of failed ColdFusion projects, my guess is that the ratio of success to failure is higher for ColdFusion applications than it is for others. ColdFusion continues to grow based on the growth of its users and, under Adobe, the list of users is growing.
Adobe isn't just legitimizing ColdFusion, nor is Adobe simply expanding the user base and marketing ColdFusion better than it's ever been marketed before. Adobe is finally cementing ColdFusion's image as a powerful platform that has been at the heart of internet innovation since the very beginning, and a powerful force that will continue to shape the internet for years to come. Adobe, is, in a very real way, ColdFusion's ultimate home... a place where mutual strengths and complementary weaknesses merge and mesh and synergize to become something far more than the sum of any of the parts.
Here's to a long and illustrious future!
Jared Rypka-Hauer is founder and CEO of Continuum Media Group, LLC, and has been working in IT since 1990. His skills are wide ranging, and include a knowledge of end-user support and infrastructure, ColdFusion and web development, and an object-oriented approach to building applications. Jared's articles are regularly featured in his blog, cf.Objective(), on his employer's blog (http://www.alagad.com/go/blog), and in venues such as Fusion Authority. He is currently one of several skilled worker-bees at Alagad, making the world a better place by building the best software possible.