Adobe steals your color

A SaaS on the mantel in Act I must go off by Act III.

Cory Doctorow


A Pantone swatchbook; it slowly fades to grey, then to black.

When a company breaks a product you rely on — wrecking decades of work — it’s natural to feel fury. Companies know this, so they try to deflect your rage by blaming their suppliers. Sometimes, it’s suppliers who are at fault — but other times, there is plenty of blame to go around.

For example, when Apple deleted all the working VPNs from its Chinese App Store and backdoored its Chinese cloud servers, it blamed the Chinese government. But the Chinese state knew that Apple had locked its devices so that its Chinese customers couldn’t install third-party apps.

That meant that an order to remove working VPNs and apps that used offshore clouds from the App Store would lock Apple customers into Chinese state surveillance. The order to block privacy tools was a completely foreseeable consequence of Apple’s locked-down “ecosystem.”

In 2013, Adobe started to shift its customers to the cloud, replacing apps like Photoshop and Illustrator with “Software as a Service” (“SaaS”) versions that you would have to pay rent on, every month, month after month, forever. It’s not hard to understand why this was an attractive proposition for Adobe!

Adobe, of course, billed its SaaS system as good for its customers — rather than paying thousands of dollars for its software up front, you could pay a few dollars (anywhere from $10-$50) every month instead. Eventually, of course, you’d end up paying more, assuming these were your professional tools, which you expected to use for the rest of your life.

For people who work in prepress, a key part of their Adobe tools is integration with Pantone. Pantone is a system for specifying color-matching. A Pantone number corresponds to a specific tint that’s either made by mixing the four standard print colors (cyan, magenta, yellow and black, AKA “CMYK”), or by applying a “spot” color. Spot colors are added to print jobs after the normal CMYK passes — if you want a stripe of metallic gold or a blob of hot pink, you specify its Pantone number and the printer loads up a separate ink and runs your media through its printer one more time.