The Drumbeat 2000 & Macromedia Saga
Consumer Response Center
To Whom It May Concern:
This letter serves as formal complaint to the Federal Trade Commission on the possibly deceptive and unfair advertising practices of the Macromedia Corporation regarding the sale and advertisement of their product Drumbeat 2000.
Macromedia acquired Drumbeat 2000 from Elemental Software in August on 1999 and hired many of the original Drumbeat program team. Macromedia began selling Drumbeat under their logo in September of 1999. During the summer of 1999 Macromedia made a number of public statements about the acquisition of Drumbeat. These statements were displayed on the Macromedia Web site as “The Elemental Acquisition FAQ” beginning in August 1999. These statements (see Exhibit 1) specifically suggested to customers that a new, expanded edition of Drumbeat would be developed. These pages continued to be published on Macromedia’s Web Site through April 24, 2000. This timing of August 1999 through April 2000 is of critical importance.
Secondly, the way in which Drumbeat was
marketed informed customers that the product would work with “Windows NT
4 and higher.” The Drumbeat User’s Guide specifically states on page
12 that the product will work with “Windows NT 4 and higher.” (Exhibit
2 - Drumbeat Users’ Manual page 12). This language is in common
use in the software industry and indicates that the product would work
with Windows NT 4.0 and future versions of the Windows operating system,
in this case Windows 2000. For an individual who purchased the program,
reading this indicated that they had made a good investment; the company
intended to provide a product that would run under at least the next
version of the Windows operating system. As will become evident, this was
not to be the case. This is a piece of information that Macromedia has
been distributed in their manuals from August 1999 through the present.
In September, Macromedia released Service Pack 2 for
Drumbeat, a software patch to fix certain problems and add some new
features, which had been developed by the Elemental Software team. It
added a few new features as well as introduced some new bugs in the
program. Since then Drumbeat users have waited patiently for Service Pack
3 to solve the problems created by the bugs. Hundreds if not thousands of
requests have been submitted to the company asking for these bugs to be
In December of 1999 a number of customers raised questions about incompatibilities between Drumbeat 2000 and Windows 2000 Beta release 2. Macromedia responded that Drumbeat was not supported to operate under the Windows 2000 Beta 2. Macromedia’s statements at the time on the Drumbeat Newsgroup and posted on the Macromedia Web Site under Technote 2276 (Jan 06, 2000) were simply “Drumbeat 2000 is not compatible with Windows 2000 Beta 2” (see Exhibit 3 At the time many users believed (since Macromedia did not state otherwise) that this was a problem with the beta version of Windows 2000 not a problem with Drumbeat. Customers assumed that when the final version of Windows 2000 was released, Drumbeat would run on Windows 2000. However, as will be clear from the timeline below, Macromedia knew at least as early as December of 1999 that Drumbeat was not going to be compatible with Windows 2000 and the company had already decided that it would not build a software patch that would make it compatible. This information was hidden from consumers until April 2000.
Upon the release of the final version Windows 2000 on February 17, 2000, Drumbeat users learned from Macromedia staff that Drumbeat would not run on Windows 2000 (see Exhibit 3. When questioned about this on the various Drumbeat newsgroups at the time, Macromedia staff admitted that the incompatibility was a problem with Drumbeat not with Windows 2000 as is shown in these email messages from Jeff Von Ward from Macromedia Technical Support on the Macromedia Drumbeat Newsgroup:
When questioned about whether the company would release a Windows 2000 patch, the response from Macromedia Technical Support was “yes we are.” Jeff Von Ward from Macromedia Technical Support made the following public statement on the Macromedia Drumbeat Newsgroup: Please see Exhibit 3 for a number of email messages some of which confirm that a patch for Windows 2000 will be coming (while others are vague and elusive).
any reasonable person would interpret this statement as confirming
Macromedia's intention to create a Drumbeat 2000 patch that would allow
the program to operate under Windows 2000. Particularly
in light of the fact that the Drumbeat Users Guide published by Macromedia
states that Drumbeat will operate "with Windows 4.0 and later." In point of fact, the company
had already decided much earlier that it was not going to create a Windows
2000 patch and consciously did not reveal that information when it was
specifically asked about it. Windows 2000 compatibility is a critical
buying factor for many users. Macromedia employees did not simply withhold
information, they answered in a way that told users that a patch was
forthcoming thereby preventing purchasers from making an accurate buying
On April 5 of this year, Macromedia announced that
Drumbeat would be discontinued in June 2000 and that a new product,
Dreamweaver UltraDev, based on the Dreamweaver architecture, would be
released as a replacement. As part of the replacement program, current
Drumbeat users would be offered a special upgrade price. This demonstrates
the connection that the company was building in the minds of Drumbeat
users between Drumbeat and the new product. This announcement generated
both excitement and a great deal of concern among Drumbeat users. You can
read a sampling of hundreds of comments from Drumbeat users in the
Appendix of Exhibit 5. Drumbeat customers
expressed shocked at the cancellation of the product, a feeling of being
cheated by the company, and literally begged the company to provide a
Windows 2000 patch. Some even talked about class action suits against
Macromedia. Many Drumbeat users had spent months learning the program and
developing Web sites with Drumbeat technology, based on the assumption
that Drumbeat would be part of the Macromedia family of programs for an
extended period of time as was stated in “The Elemental Acquisition
FAQ” (Exhibit 1) - “the next
generation of Drumbeat 2000 will contain a greater integration between
Drumbeat and Macromedia’s existing products.”
Drumbeat users were concerned about whether the Web
sites created with Drumbeat would be usable in the new product. Little
information was forthcoming from Macromedia until May 2000 about exactly
what Dreamweaver UltraDev would do. It turns out that Dreamweaver UltraDev
is not a typical "upgrade" to Drumbeat 2000 where the two programs are
compatible; rather Dreamweaver UltraDev is a completely different product.
Sites published from Drumbeat can be opened and modified in Dreamweaver
UltraDev. However, because Drumbeat republishes the Web pages each time
you make a change within Drumbeat any changes made outside of Drumbeat (by
Dreamweaver UltraDev) would be lost. This is due to the fundamental
architecture change between the Drumbeat product and Dreamweaver UltraDev.
This has been confirmed by a number of Macromedia employees (see Exhibit
6). Here is what a Peter Moser, a Beta tester of Dreamweaver UltraDev had
to say about the difference between Drumbeat and Dreamweaver UltraDev and
moving Drumbeat applications over to the new architecture. He states that
moving Drumbeat projects over to UltraDev will ultimately involve a
complete rewriting of the Drumbeat application, an immense task for many
Web sites and for developers who have built dozens of sites in Drumbeat.
Peter’s remarks are confirmed by two Macromedia employees John Dowdell
and Matt Brown on the Macromedia UltraDev Newsgroup:
This shift in architecture is compounded by the fact that a number of the features in Drumbeat are not duplicated in Dreamweaver UltraDev. As announced by Macromedia, Dreamweaver UltraDev will not initially include a number of the E-commerce features found in Drumbeat E-commerce edition. What this means to Drumbeat users is that many users will have to continue to maintain E-commerce and other Drumbeat-built sites with Drumbeat for an extended period of time until 1) Dreamweaver UltraDev has the same features as Drumbeat and 2) until we have time to completely port our Drumbeat-built applications over to the new program. This problem is further exacerbated by the fact that Drumbeat 2000 will not run under Windows 2000. So thousands of Drumbeat developers are suddenly caught in a situation where they must maintain their sites on Drumbeat for months if not a year or more, and they can’t do it on a PC running Windows 2000. Macromedia was aware of this situation months ahead of time and chose not to inform customers of these facts. It allowed customers to continue to purchase the product without adequate knowledge upon which to base their buying decision.
With the new product schedule to be released in
June it is clear that Macromedia decided to discontinue Drumbeat long
before April 5. I expect that a review of Macromedia’s records would set
the date in the fall of 1999. The email responses in Exhibit
4 directly from Macromedia employees clearly indicate that the
company decided to stop development on Drumbeat 2000 and to solely work on
Dreamweaver UltraDev sometime in early fall of 1999. Here are a sample of
The issue that Macromedia had decided sometime in 1999 not to develop a Windows 2000 patch was also confirmed in my April 21 2000 telephone conversation with Macromedia Vice President Beth Davis when she said that the program team examined Windows 2000 and determined that it would “take a team of programmers months to create a Windows 2000 patch so we decided not to do it.” (see Exhibit 3). While I don’t disagree with Macromedia’s decision on how to allocate their programming resources, the company maintained a policy of both misinformation and obfuscation about their product for months between the decision to discontinue Drumbeat and now. This practice of deception continued until April 5, 2000 when Macromedia announced the new Dreamweaver UltraDev product was going to replace Drumbeat 2000. It was only at this point that Macromedia acknowledged that Windows 2000 support would never be available for Drumbeat a fact they had known for months and kept from inquiring customers. Their Web Site continued to display this false and misleading information until April 24 (see Exhibit 1). It was only through my letter to the Macromedia President (see Exhibit 5) and my phone conversations with Macromedia employees that the false information was removed.
Another interesting note is that several
Drumbeat users have developed some simple patches to allow the program to
work under Windows 2000. It seems strange that a company that posted 1999
fourth quarter revenues of $89,282,000 couldn’t put any time
into solving this problem for their customers.
I think as you read through the messages from Macromedia employees to concerned customers you will see a general pattern of disdain from the Macromedia staff. This is a company that has established a pattern of keeping critical buying information from customers. It does not bode well for how customers are to be treated in the future. This reply from Matt Brown at Macromedia is particularly telling, it shows that the company was aware of the disruptive nature the change in architecture would have on Drumbeat customers.
After reviewing the Federal Trade Commission practices I have found the following descriptions that seem to fit the current situation.
In interpreting Section 5 of the Act, the Commission has determined that a representation, omission, or practice is deceptive if it is likely to:
· mislead consumers; and
· affect consumers’ behavior or decisions about the product or service.
In addition, an act or practice is unfair if the injury it causes, or is likely to cause, is:
· not outweighed by other benefits; and
· not reasonably avoidable.
Under these guidelines Macromedia has done the
It is clear that Macromedia’s practices
misled customers, affected their buying decisions, has created a
substantial hardship and significant monetary loss for some customers, and
was reasonably avoidable by the company. Macromedia continued to sell a
product that it knew it was going to discontinue without providing
customers with the proper information to make an informed decision about
purchasing the product. Buyers based their decisions on a number of
factors including information in the user’s manual, the company’s
portrayal of how they would continue to develop the product on their Web
Site. From my reading of this it seems clear that much of Macromedia’s
approach has been deceptive as defined by the FTC and may even be
considered as unfair. Here is what one Drumbeat customer reported:
I am a developer who just put in my
resignation at my full time job and planned to do freelance Drumbeat
development. After a great deal of planning, I was slated to "go
live" with my new business on June 3rd.
Only days after making this life altering decision, I found out
about Macromedia's plans to discontinue Drumbeat.
This has been an upsetting development and I have been left with
few options. I can continue
to develop with Drumbeat but using soon to be outdated software is a great
disservice to my customers. It could also lead to great losses if I have
to redevelop sites at my own cost just to update a few items. On the other
hand, I could take the time to learn UltraDev (which I feel is by no means
an upgrade to Drumbeat 2000) and cut my losses with the countless hours
spent learning Drumbeat. This option would mean waiting until UltraDev is
released (June, July, who really knows?), spending several months learning
the product, and then I would finally be able to sell my services.
I would not be able to "go live" until at least November.
Financially, this is not even an option.
When I first considered starting my
own business, I was only slightly apprehensive and very excited. I had
decided initially to choose all Macromedia products because of their
quality and Macromedia's excellent reputation. Now their thoughtless
decisions, clearly motivated by financial gain, have turned my dream into
a nightmare. I looked to Macromedia as a company I could trust and am
still shocked by the lies they have fed the development community. They
need a hard lesson in respect for their customers. It seems like large
companies always end up forgetting just how they got where they are. They
wouldn't even exist if it wasn't for us, the customer.
Macromedia's actions have really made
me consider how I will run my business.
After dealing with this much frustration, I understand the
requirements my customers will have. I must be honest, fair, and
respectful of their needs. In other words, everything that Macromedia no
The number of Drumbeat customers who have been
affected by this or who have complained is staggering. Some are listed in
my letter to the Macromedia President as well as many of their comments.
Hundreds of other users have posted complaints on the Macromedia
Newsgroups for Drumbeat, Drumbeat E-Commerce, and UltraDev. There were
simply far too many complaints for me to include them all in these letter.
There are also many other Drumbeat customers who do not use these online
resources who have also been adversely affected. It is estimated that
there are about 10,000 Drumbeat users.
I would appreciate your assistance in filing this complaint and in informing me what additional action customers can take with the company regarding refunds or compensation. I can be reached at the address above. Thank you for your consideration of this matter.