With the CC2015 launch, Adobe finally announced the inevitable, which many of us expected from the moment they acquired Fotolia, and some of us imagined much earlier: Adobe Stock. This has been a very long time in coming, and it completes an initiative from many years ago, one that we have witnessed from the beginning and participated in. There is nothing new about the concept of Adobe Stock, but the technology underpinnings and business model have both gone through some changes.

2005: Adobe Stock Photos is Launched

If you have been around a long time, you may remember the Creative Suite 2 launch, of April 2005. The announcement is not so different:

Adobe Stock Photos is a new service introduced with Adobe Creative Suite 2 software. Offering one- stop shopping from within your favorite Adobe applications, Adobe Stock Photos is an efficient and convenient way for creative professionals to search, try, manage, and buy high-quality, royalty-free stock images. Adobe Stock Photos provides access to over 230,000 photos and illustrations from some of the world’s leading stock image libraries including Photodisc® by Getty Images, Comstock Images® by Jupitermedia®, Digital Vision®, imageshopTM royalty free by zefaimagesTM, and amana®.

This certainly is conceptually, and in terms of user experience, almost precisely what Adobe announced today. There are, however, a few differences:

  • These are not from Adobe directly, but come from a network of partners.
  • Look at the difference in the number of photos! 230,000? Perhaps in 2005 this sounded like “plenty.”
  • Under the hood, this was implemented in old school ways compared to how things are done now inside of Creative Cloud apps.

Why did it not work back then?

It makes a ton of sense, actually, why go out to a browser and search for stock photos, when you can access them directly inside of InDesign? The problem, as far as I can tell, was political. Once Adobe became the gatekeeper deciding whose images could be inside of the Creative Suite, they risked offending quite a few people… other stock photo agencies, photographers, even the “chosen” agencies could complain about how their offerings were weighted. It must have created some very awkward encounters.

And this just so happened to be the point when “microstock” was really heating up. iStockphotos, the pioneer in much lower-priced images on the web, was doing remarkably well: Getty bought them in 2006 but that did little to hold back the tide. Fotolia, founded in 2005, was but one example of this blooming industry that would dramatically lower the price of stock photos and level the playing field. It was, if anything, simply the wrong time.

2012: Adobe Extensibility and Microstock Come of Age

As of CS2, the extensibility of the Creative Suite was limited. It was a big development undertaking for Adobe to build such an application. But in the CS4 to CS5 era, they built a radically better capability for developers to extend InDesign. Such an extension could be built very quickly, and that’s exactly what we did for Fotolia in 2012.

“Fotolia is proud to be the first major stock photo agency to leverage Adobe’s new CS Extension technology with Silicon Publishing,” said Oleg Tscheltzoff, CEO of Fotolia LLC in a press statement.

“Their expertise and knowledge of the creative process is amazing, and we think all designers will benefit from this technology.”

The “Adobe Plugin for Fotolia” was widely used and gave Fotolia users the ability to do essentially the same thing: access the stock photo library from directly within the Creative Suite applications. They could try them, they could even buy them and with the “magic button” update the images they had purchased to non-watermarked, production-ready versions. Soon other microstock companies copied what we had done and you will find similar CS Extensions available for other stock photo companies.



This worked, and is also extremely similar to what Adobe is offering. When we heard that Adobe was buying Fotolia, we knew that something like Adobe Stock was inevitable. It is a good experience to work from within InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator and search for assets right there.

However, it is a bit awkward to ask people to download plugins or extensions. Certainly this lacked the ubiquity that could be enjoyed if such an extension literally came with the product. How could Fotolia get direct access to their images to be available with Adobe products out of the box? Easy, they could sell their company to Adobe.

Today: Microstock Meets Latest Adobe Technology

I don’t actually know, but I have very strong suspicions, that the navigator for Adobe Stock is built using CC Extensions, an evolution of extensibility technology that post-dates what we did back in 2012. In exorcising Flash from the Creative Cloud products Adobe had to start over, and we have been using the HTML5-based CC Extensions to build things like our recently announced WebDAM Connector for Adobe InDesign®.

While this is almost exactly what they tried 10 years ago, it is certainly a far better offering than anything previous, as:

  • It comes with the products (like the original offering but unlike what stock agencies could do subsequently), requiring no plugin to be downloaded.
  • It is a modern-sized library (40 million images) at modern microstock prices.
  • It is built with the latest and greatest extensibility technology.
  • It is politically uncomplicated (though it may offend non-Adobe stock photo companies).

It took a long time but my impression is that Adobe Stock will do very well for Adobe.

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