by Roopinder Tara, Tenlinks.com
In a deal that may largely go unnoticed by CAD insiders, Autodesk’s acquired Instructables on Aug 1. But this raises significant concerns about independence of online communities.
Autodesk as we all know, makes design software, AutoCAD, Revit, Inventor…. The list goes on. Most of it is dedicated to professionals: architects, designers, engineers, and the like.
Recent initiatives, however, reveal a yearning for the consumer market. Products such as Photofly (a runaway success if only Autodesk would focus on it) can create 3D models from digital camera photos. Its recently introduced 123D -- free software intended for makers/DIYers/inventors -- is another example.
But as SketchUp seems to have quite a hold on that community, and so Autodesk needed to provide a little persuasion. An ordinary company may have just bought some ad space on popular web sites. Instructables is once of them, I think, catering to people who make all sorts of things. But ordinary companies don’t have a billion in the bank. Autodesk just up and bought the entire Instructables business.
Who cares? Well, maybe all the people who counted on Instructables to get advice will care.
A while ago, someone posted on Instructables the following question “What [CAD] software is best?” Another member recommended TurboCAD. It just so happens that TurboCAD is competitive to AutoCAD LT, an Autodesk product. I wonder how much longer such answers will be tolerated. I’m sure the official answer (from Autodesk) would proclaim to guarantee independence. Even if there is a Santa Claus and the Instructables does manage to maintain true independence, who will believe it?
Maybe Instructables users can continue to trust how to pickle your okra… Yeah, that’s right. "Pickling Okra" is one of the most popular instructions on the site. So is how to make breakfast nachos, a water balloon launcher, potato print underwear…
What was Autodesk thinking? Technology even of the consumer kind appears to be included as an afterthought on the Instructables site. The lone CAD question was way-old, and it wasn’t getting a lot of attention. Subjects listed are Food, Living, Art, Beauty, Cake Decorating….
In other words: not a whole lot of stuff Autodesk software can help with. Or is Autodesk is about to create AutoCAKE?
It's probably best for my sanity to not second-guess how other companies spend their money. The amount of money that changed hands in the acquisition (no one is saying how much) may have been a lot for the founders of Instructables, but Autodesk does not even consider it worth reporting. It may have been a whim.
A more sensible approach would have been to buy up a good portion of the ad space from Instructables. At least Instructables could still have insisted they were like every other ad-supported media site with a church/state separation between editorial and advertising.
[Reprinted by permission of CAD Insider.]