An Adobe browser, briefly considered

Chalk it up as a footnote to history but the company at one time thought about doing just that. Does it make sense to brush off the idea?

Internet Explorer dominates the Web browser market, but are that many people so in love with it? Meanwhile, the Flash player dominates its segment because lots of people find it to be a terrific. So might Adobe one day decide that the next logical step is to try its hand at building its own Web browser?

Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch speaks at the company's Max conference Monday. Stephen Shankland, CNET News

Turns out that's not such a crazy idea. Following the completion of Adobe's acquisition of Macromedia in 2005, the company's brass actually toyed with the idea.

"We looked at making our own browser," said Adobe's chief technology officer, Kevin Lynch, in an interview leading up to this week's Adobe Max conference. "We thought about how to advance the capabilities of the Web."

At first blush, that sounds like a fit with the message Adobe attaches to Flash as a technology to foster delivery of "applications, content, and video to the widest possible audience." But the idea ultimately failed to persuade management that it was wise to commit the resources (and in the process pick another fight with Microsoft.) "Our primary interest is to build a great platform upon which others can build great applications," Lynch said. "There are enough browsers in the world."

Too bad. As a user, I'd like even more choice. Even though they don't have more than minor shares of the market, I'm thrilled that Mozilla, Opera, and Google decided to design their own PC Web browsers. Anything to turn up the heat on Microsoft and force it to think more creatively about the Internet browsing metaphor.

For Adobe, the temptation was to create a product that would do a better job of enabling its technologies on client systems. But Lynch said the green light hinged on whether an Adobe browser would win wide enough distribution. As even Google is discovering, that's not an easy goal to achieve.

"It's brave of (Google) to come out with a browser," he said. "I love to see innovation. But will Chrome get 80 or 90 percent reach? I don't see how that's possible."

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About the author

Charles Cooper was an executive editor at CNET News. He has covered technology and business for more than 25 years, working at CBSNews.com, the Associated Press, Computer & Software News, Computer Shopper, PC Week, and ZDNet.

 

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