Macromedia's history stretches back to 1984, when the web was still just a twinkle in Tim Berners-Lee's eye. Initially developing multimedia authoring tools, a series of bold technology moves, smart acquisitions and an eye to the future, have made them a software company that has made a huge impact on the way the web has developed.

Although occasionally derided and often misused, shockwave and flash gave web designers complete and consistent control over the appearance of web pages for the first time, and allowed the creation of client side interactive animations. While applets promised, Macromedia delivered.

Shockwave and Flash content is now so prevalent that the Shockwave plug-in is bundled as standard with all of the major browsers.

Product List

Macromedia was formed from the merger/acquisition of seven companies:


Macromind was formed in 1982. Paracomp was formed in 1987 and merged with Macromind in 1991 to form Macromind-Paracomp. Authorware was founded in 1987, and merged with Macromind-Paracomp in 1992 to form Macromedia. In 1993 Macromedia made its initial public offering at 12$ per share on Nasdaq. In 1995 Macromedia acquired AltSys. In 1997 Macromedia acquired Futurewave Software. Allaire was founded in 1995. In 1997 Allaire acquired Bradbury Software and Livesoftware. In 2001 Macromedia and Allaire merge.


Founded in 1995 by Jeremy and J.J. Allaire, Allaire released Coldfusion, an extensible, scriptable web application server. Coldfusion evolved to provide a rich toolset, and the ability to abstract presentation from content and business logic; it became popular as a RAD web development and deployment environment.

In 1999, Allaire acquired Livesoftware and began incorporating Livesoftware's JRun servlet engine into the Coldfusion product, as well as developing and selling it as a standalone component. JRun was the first commercial servlet engine available, but has now been largely eclipsed by the Apache Tomcat project.


AltSys produced the popular Freehand vector drawing application. Freehand was a direct competitor to Adobe Illustrator. Most graphic design professionals used both Illustrator and Freehand, each having useful features that the other lacked.


Founded in 1987, Authorware's eponymous product was a tool targetted at producers of educational courseware.

Bradbury Software

Founded by Nick Bradbury, Bradbury Software developed Homesite, a powerful and popular HTML editor. Before Bradbury Software was acquired by Allaire in 1997 Homesite was bundled with Macromedia's Dreamweaver web site design tool.


Futurewave developed Futuresplash, an innovative technology for displaying animated vector graphics in a web page. Futuresplash consisted of the Futuresplash plug in for Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator that was freely available, and the Futuresplash authoring studio that had to be purchased. Because Futuresplash was based on vector graphics, file sizes were very small, this allowed web sites to provide much richer content to users who were predominantly connected to the Internet over modems. The early versions of Futuresplash authoring studio were buggy and difficult to use, but content creators persevered, and the web started to become animated.

When Macromedia acquired Futurewave in 1997, they renamed Futuresplash to Flash, and included the Futuresplash player technology into their Shockwave plugin. The Flash authoring studio was developed into a powerful and stable application. Flash export plug ins were created for many professional vector animation systems further increasing the range of content available. Macromedia developed Flash Generator that allowed server side creation of customised Flash content. In 2000 Adobe released their own Flash authoring tool called LiveMotion.


Developer of JRun servlet engine, see Allaire above.


Formed in 1984, Macromind developed the revolutionary Director. Director allowed designers and multimedia developers to create fast, flexible, powerful and stable interactive content with little or no programming. The basic paradigms were:

  • Cast:
    A set of sprites, pieces of text, sounds, and user interface components.
  • Timeline
    Sprites could be positioned at different points on the timeline, sprites that move or scale from one frame to another could be tweened to provide smooth animation.
  • Scripts
    Lingo scripts could be attached to frames in the timeline, or to events on cast members (such as clicking, dragging, or rolling the mouse over them). The Lingo scripts allowed the designer to easily program complex behaviours.

The interactive content generated by Director is called a Movie. Once a movie had been created it could be deployed by generating an executable file that contained a Director runtime application and all of the resources required by the movie.

The initial targets for interactive media created by Director were kiosks and CD Roms. In 1995 Macromedia developed a plug in for Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator called Shockwave. The Shockwave plug in consisted of a version of the Director runtime application designed to run inside a browser. Instead of bundling the content with the runtime application, the Shockwave plug in could download the content from the web. Initially a plug in for Director was available called Afterburner which turned a Director movie into a Shockwave file. The Afterburner plug in was rapidly included as standard in Director.

Macromind developed and acquired a suite of software related to the creation of interactive content and graphic design.


Founded in 1987, Paracomp developed Swivel 3D, an entry level 3D modeller aimed at designers.

In 1991 Paracomp merged with Macromind to form Macromind-Paracomp.

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