If you have a computer with internet access, or you have ever been online, then there is probably very little doubt that you have come across one of Macromedia’s products at one time or another. There are millions of people each day who have come in contact with results of Macromedia software, but they most likely know little or nothing of the history that brought this company about, the changes it went through, and what it has become today.
Macromedia started out in San Francisco, California as a North American web development and graphics software house which has produced such great and innovative products as Macromedia Flash. The line of Macromedia products is still alive and kicking, only it has been acquired by Adobe Systems Incorporated, which is a former rival. It was acquired on December 3rd 2005.
The history of Macromedia spans back nearly 20 years. It was formed through a merger of MacroMind-Paracomp and Authorware Inc. in 1992. Authorware Inc. was the maker of Authorware, and MacroMind-Paracomp were the makers of the Macromind Director. The first product after the merger was simply known as Director, which was an interactive multimedia creating tool that was widely used to create information kiosks and CD-ROMs. This software would be Macromedia’s number one product up until the mid 1990’s. Eventually the CD-ROM market began to decline steadily, and the Internet became increasingly popular.
Once the World Wide Web had become number one, macromedia released Shockwave software, which was made for web browsers as a Director viewer plug-in. However, the company also decided that it should expand its market by creating and offering web-native media tools. This was a great move and helped to shape the World Wide Web as we know it today, however it could not save the company from being acquired by its rivals.
In 1995, Macromedia made its first acquisition, taking over Altsys for their intellectual property. In particular, the company was after FreeHand software, which was a vector drawing and page layout program that was very similar to Adobe Systems Inc’s Adobe Illustrator. The software components and vector graphics rendering engine that was contained within FreeHand proved to be very useful to Macromedia in the development of their technologies in support of their web strategies. In an effort to further jumpstart its web strategies, Macromedia made two more acquisitions.
First came the makers of FurtureSplash Animator, which was an animation tool that was originally created for pen-based computers and computing devices. This company was known as FutureWave Software. This company was acquired because its program was particularly suited for download over the World Wide Web because of its small file size. This was at a time when most internet users had a very slow connection and would not wait long enough to download larger programs. Following Netscape’s lead, Macromedia renamed this FutureSplash Animator as Macromedia Flash, and that is what most of us remember today. It then distributed the new Flash Player as a free web browser plug–in, in order to easily and rapidly spread the software, gaining market share. In 2005, more consumer computers had Macromedia Flash installed than any other internet media format, including QuickTime, Java, Windows Media Player and RealNetworks. As the programs matured, the focus was shifted from marketing the software as a media and graphics tool to promoting it as an actual web application platform.