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PDF and Adobe PDF

18 Aug 2009 | | One Comment

This post is on a topic related to my previous post. A rant continued…

It’s funny. For years Adobe had to tread a thin line between generating revenue from the electronic document format that they created and not stepping on the toes of the vibrant community of independent developers which sprung up around the Portable Document Format in its early years — and played a significant role in the rise of this astoundingly popular format. The thin line was caused by the fact that up until 2008, PDF was a proprietary format, published by Adobe as an open standard. And in order for independent businesses to invest time, effort and money in building products around this open standard, they had to be safe in the knowledge that Adobe weren’t going to screw them over in some way. So in the early days Adobe couldn’t really go adding features to the PDF specification that were only available in Adobe products because this would have discouraged other companies from building products and businesses around the format.

But, now that PDF is an official ISO standard, Adobe aren’t constrained in the same way. They can, more or less, do whatever they want — and if anyone complains, they have an ISO standard which can be vigorously waive in the face of the plaintiff. Clever.

Indeed, Acrobat doesn’t just create PDFs anymore, it creates Adobe PDFs — a small but growing distinction.

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One Comment »

  • Leonard Rosenthol said:

    Almost since the beginning of PDF (PDF Reference 1.1, Annex G), there has been a defined way for 3rd parties to extend the PDF language. And MANY MANY developers have taken advantage of this over the 15+ years of PDFs life. Today those recommendations are codified in Annex E of ISO 32000-1.

    Since the publication of ISO 32000-1, Adobe has adhered to the requirements of that Annex (and other relevant sections of the ISO 32000-1) when extending the language as we did in Acrobat 9. In addition, and unlike most other extensions in the past, we published COMPLETE documentation for our extensions. In addition, we have submitted those extensions to the ISO 32000 committee for inclusion in future versions – and in fact, all of our extensions were approved and are indeed incorporated into the current draft of ISO 32000-2.

    So to say that Adobe isn’t “playing by the rules” is an OUTRIGHT LIE. We are being a proper member of the ISO community and an acting accordingly.

    Leonard Rosenthol
    PDF Standards Architect
    Adobe Systems

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