It might have come as a rude shock to Linux fans everywhere when Adobe decided to drop Adobe AIR for Linux. Well, it wasn’t as if it was popular on Linux but still, no one expected Adobe to do that. The reason they gave was ludicrous, stating that only 0.5 % of AIR users were on Linux platform. But as a longtime Linux user I consider this as good riddance. In fact, I think that the Linux community will actually benefit from this decision. Here’s how.
A bit on Adobe AIR
Adobe AIR was launched in early 2008 with high hopes that it might become as popular as Flash did. However, things didn’t work out so well for Adobe, as this cross-platform runtime environment failed to make a buzz in the PC market. Nonetheless, AIR gained a lot of popularity from Twitter and Facebook apps like Twhirl, Tweetdeck and Seesmic. But that popularity started waning once web apps started gaining prominence. Also, Apple’s attack on Adobe coupled with the bloated, non-native feel to the apps on the platform made it even less popular. Adobe on the other hand, claims that it has 100 million installations. While that number may make AIR look like a success, nothing can be farther from the truth. Adobe AIR has managed to gain a lot of users by simply bundling the runtime with a massively popular software, Adobe Reader. This means that whenever a user installs Adobe Reader, he or she would have no choice but to install AIR, as there is no option for exclusion. This, in my opinion, is borderline Microsoft behavior. Installing something without a user’s permission is nothing but pure evil. So, in all I’m happy that we will no longer be having something that evil and restrictive on our platform, a platform which is based upon the principles of user freedom.
Better for us
If you’re an Evernote user, you might have noticed that they have their software on almost every platform other than Linux. However, the Linux community didn’t just whine (or WINE?) about this problem; instead, they came up with their own open source alternative to Evernote, called Nevernote. Similarly, if there are a lot of Linuxiens using a particular AIR-based software, then there is a huge chance that there will be a FOSS-based alternative to it that sooner than you expect. Also, if you look at all the AIR-based applications that are out there, there is barely an application that you can call ‘must-have’ or indispensable.
Personally, the only essential AIR-based apps for me were Tweetdeck and Twhirl. Twhirl, has been replaced by Seesmic now, hence I no longer use it. Tweetdeck has a perfectly working Chrome-based version out, so I’ve uninstalled the AIR version a few weeks ago.
What Adobe lost
It cannot be argued that Linux has one of the strongest communities in software. Adobe, by ditching Linux, has just lost the benefits it could have gained from the community. It is a well-known fact that a Linux user — when compared to a Windows or Mac user — is more likely to give feedback or file a bug report on a particular software he or she uses. So even if Linux users comprise 0.5% of AIR’s market, they lost a userbase which could have helped nurture their own software. I really don’t know how Adobe came up with this decision but I think it’s more of their loss than ours.
Conclusion : Adobe AIR made a very bad decision by dropping support for a growing platform like Linux. However, that doesn’t affect Linux in any way, in fact, it will push developers to come up with better native alternatives to AIR-based softwares. This, however, is my own opinion, if you feel that Adobe AIR was a huge loss to Linux, feel free to spark an argument in the comments section below.