I’ve been using Adobe’s products since the late 80s, back when they were good.
The products all started out pretty lean, by necessity. The hardware could only support so much, and Adobe had to use what resources they had judiciously.
For awhile, as hardware grew more capable, upgrades were real improvements. We all upgraded enthusiastically.
Somewhere in the mid-2000s, the hardware got good enough that Adobe was able to do everything useful that a user could want. In an ideal world, this is where Adobe would have stopped adding stuff.
But this is not an ideal world — so this is exactly when Adobe’s product managers went into manic overdrive. They used up every resource at their disposal, to do something new — anything — even things few people needed or wanted. At that point, upgrades became mixed-bags. The toolbars and menus and palettes grew numerous and cumbersome. They were all over the place. Basic interactions were dicked around with and changed arbitrarily, requiring relearning and inflicting needless usability friction. But there was usually something there that we couldn’t do without. We grudgingly upgraded.
But it went further downward from there. The tradeoffs began to neutralize the benefits. Upgrades became entirely worthless. Then they became worse-than-worthless. Tradeoffs dwarfed the benefits.
Finally they were just flat depressing. There was no benefit. Everything was just slower, more burdensome, more confusing, more crappy. You just had to do it to maintain compatibility with those asshats who cooperated with the scam, and forced the rest of us to go along. It was insulting to pay for these “upgrades”, and we tried to postpone it as long as we could.
That is when Adobe went to a subscription model.
So now each time a user opens an Adobe product, they get to wait while the software checks to ensure the user has paid the extortion fee — slowing the software launch-time to late-90s speeds.
Looking back there is a clear trajectory to this story. While hardware has maintained its Moore’s law pace of miraculously doubling its speed every two years, Adobe has always managed to neutralize all gains with its own uncontrollable urge to add new processor-hogging, memory-hogging, attention-hogging nonsense to its feature set.
It might be that Adobe itself changed. But I’m starting to wonder if there isn’t Moore’s Law-like law at work. Think about it: what software hasn’t grown like goldfish to whatever size their hardware fishbowl can contain?
This phenomenon needs a name. And you know, I’m sure someone has already observed and named this phenomenon. But I’m too lazy to check, and besides, everything’s better when I invent it. So here you go:
- Moore’s Law is “the number of transistors on a microchip doubles about every two years, though the cost of computers is halved.”
- Moron’s Law is “the number of features in any software product doubles about every two years, and as the feature set bloats to ever more grotesque proportions, both the performance and the quality of the user experience is halved.”
I never claimed to be above venting my anger with the cheapest of cheap shots.
Anyway, this is partly why our digital lives get worse every year, not despite better hardware but because of it.