January 08, 2008

Adobe and Omniture: Further details

As promised last week, a number of Adobe folks have been gathering information about Adobe desktop applications’ communications with a server named “,” operated by Web analytics firm Omniture.  Having already discussed what data is (and is not) being gathered and tracked, let’s talk about the history & purpose of the implementation.

The welcome screen (screenshot) that’s available in some Adobe CS3 applications (Flash, Fireworks, Dreamweaver, Illustrator, and InDesign) is designed to show fresh, relevant news and information.  For that reason it loads a Flash SWF file that’s hosted on Adobe.com, just as a Web browser would do.  When the SWF gets loaded, it pings the Omniture server to record the event.  As noted previously, no personal information is uploaded in that exchange.

Some questions & answers:

Q.: Why does the SWF fetched into the welcome screen call the Omniture server?
A.: All of the content fetched from Adobe.com does this.  Adobe, like almost all companies with a Web presence, anonymously tracks usage patterns and response-time statistics.  The only way to get effective data on this is to use client-side callbacks, and Adobe works with Omniture to do this.  Hence the call to the Omniture server.

Q.: Why does Adobe use a server whose name is so suspicious-looking?
A.: I’m afraid the answer is that we don’t really know.  The fact is that this SWF tracking code already existed on the Macromedia side at the time the companies merged, and it was adopted without change by a number of products for CS3.  The people who wrote the code originally did not document why they used that server name, and we can’t find anyone who remembers.  I’m sorry we aren’t able to provide a more solid, definitive explanation.

Q.: Follow-on: Given that you can’t give a good reason why Adobe is using a server whose name is so suspicious, are you going to change the name?
A.: Absolutely.  We are working with Omniture on this right now, and will make this change as soon as we can.  (I don’t know how long this will take, but will post here when I do.)

Longer-term (in future releases), we’ll do a better job of explaining what the apps are doing of the network and why.  I think we can enable some really amazing user experiences by bringing the desktop & online worlds closer together, and that most people will want to participate in those.  The key thing is that they be given the choice, and that they be made aware of what’s going on.

Does that make sense?  All in all, I’m glad that people raised the issue; that we can explain what Adobe apps are doing; and that we can bear this experience in mind as we move forward.


PS–A tech note is now live on Adobe.com, detailing the way the apps interact with the 2O7.net server.

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