Adobe's Expanding Online Empire

by Simon. Average Reading Time: about 5 minutes.

Adobe is slowly but surely increasing its online presence with the addition of four web-based tools; Buzzword, Share, Photoshop Express and Brio. Although these four applications currently function independently from each other, they have very similar user interfaces and with a small amount of work, these tools could be tied together, offering a new and unique online suite worth noticing.

So why the big deal?

Software is moving from being packaged, where you develop for a particular operating system and put it in a box, to being developed and distributed over the internet and being designed to run across operating systems. That’s where all the innovation has moved to. Software isn’t as OS-specific anymore, it’s moving to rich internet applications. It’s a sea change in how software in general is being built.

Adobe’s Kevin Lynch on AIR’s Open-Source Road to the Desktop.

What is Adobe offering?

Adobe hasn’t developed a cohesive online suite like Google Docs and Zoho, but they are developing a series of applications that will, given time, challenge for position.


Buzzword, originally developed by Virtual Ubiquity, is a web-based, highly collaborative word processor built on Adobe’s ubiquitous Flash platform. This online editor really excels in “what you see is what you print” (WYSIWYP) functionality. Unlike the slightly clunky Google Docs and Zoho Writer, using Flash allows Buzzword to handle page layout in a way that is not possible with HTML. Buzzword also offers online collaboration via its sharing feature, which, like Google Docs, allows users to invite others to read, edit or comment on documents in realtime. Buzzword stores files online so that they are available in a single repository for document collaboration. Work is underway to support Adobe AIR to allow for offline work.

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You can find more information about Buzzword on the Adobe Labs website.


Share is a free web-based service that makes it easy to share, publish and organize your important documents. Each document you upload to your Share account is assigned a unique website address. To share a document with someone, select the document you want to share, enter the person’s email address and an optional message, and set whether the files will be publicly accessible or restricted only to the recipients. Recipients will get an email with a link they can click on to download the document. You can also link to your documents, or embed flash previews on your own website, blog or wiki. This concept is not new, with Scribd and Issuu being an alternatives.

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You can find more information about Share on the Adobe Labs website.

Photoshop Express

Adobe Photoshop Express is an online Rich Internet Application (RIA) where you can polish, sort, store, and show off up to 2GB of photos. Furthermore, you can crop, rotate, smudge, tweak, twirl, pinch, correct — or any combination you like — the images. The tool isn’t like its more powerful offline sister, it is more like the photo editing website Picnik. What’s interesting about the Adobe offering, is the fact that Photoshop Express comes with 2GB of free storage for your photos, which makes it less of just an online tool, and more of an online service. The 2GB trumps Picassa‘s current 1GB.

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You can find more information about Photoshop Express on the Adobe Labs website.


Brio, currently in Beta, is a personal web-conferenceing service that enables you to instantly communicate and collaborate using your own online meeting room. Brio offers screen-sharing, full multi-party video, VoIP, teleconferencing, whiteboarding, chat and shared notes; all via the browser.

To start a meeting, just go to your meeting room and invite others to join you at the same URL. As the host, you will need to download a small Brio add-in in order to share your screen. Meeting attendees will not need to download any software unless they will also be sharing their screen. There is no need to schedule meetings in advance.

Adobe BrioAdobe BrioAdobe BrioAdobe Brio

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You can find more information about Brio on the Adobe Labs website.

Integration and Offline Access

Although each of these tools work independently of one another, using different sign-ons, it is a very real possibility that Adobe will adopt a similar route to that of Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Zoho and integrate their online products into a single cohesive unit with one sign-on; the Adobe ID.

Plans are already afoot to integrate the Buzzword and Share tools, both of which sit naturally together. What would be more interesting would be the integration of Photoshop Express with these tools so that you can, for example, edit images embedded in a Buzzword document.

The Future

Adobe has stiff competion from the offline, desktop applications. This is where AIR enters the picture. Adobe said, as far back as September 2007, that they would create a version of Buzzword in AIR. This has yet to be envisaged, but the rumblings from Adobe suggest that this development is still in the works. Bringing Buzzword to the desktop would be an extremely significant step, making it a very real alternative to desktop word processors.

All that is required now for Adobe is to implement a spreadsheet and presentation application. Whether they buy in these tools, or use their existing skill set is the question. On current form, and if the acquisition of Virtual Ubiquity and its Buzzword product is an indication, Adobe are likely to be keeping a keen eye on existing technologies being developed by third parties. For example SlideRocket is a viable contender for presentations – built in Flash and with an AIR client; the user interface even looks similar to the above products. Or there is blist for spreadsheets that again is built on Flex/Flash technology.

Keep an eye on Adobe Labs for their latest developments. You will notice developments in areas such as RSS with myFeedz, colour theming with Kuler, and a competitor to Microsoft’s Sharepoint and Google’s Sites called JamJar.

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